Lufthansa has launched a chatbot called Mildred, which passengers can use to search for the cheapest flights within the next nine months. Users can also narrow their search results to specific dates and booking classes.
The chatbot, created for the Facebook Messenger platform, knows the nearest airport from which Lufthansa departs and can then find the cheapest prices for an outbound flight with a return flight seven days later. Normally, the chatbot looks for a trip within the next nine months but, if this is too far in advance, the dates can be narrowed down to a specific weekday, month or public holiday.
If a booking class is specified, such as Economy, Premium Economy or Business, Mildred will take this into account. Users who wish to buy a ticket are redirected to the LH.com mobile website, where they can book the flights directly on their smartphone.
The bot is based on a natural language processing platform (NLP), Wit.ai. This platform understands English and German, and also recognises place names and dates.
The NLP translates the written questions into machine-readable code. The chatbot uses two interfaces: one interface (API) to the “Lufthansa Nearest Airport” database, which also stores the international three-letter codes. The chatbot’s other interface is Google’s Geolocation whose database recognises numerous tourist attractions as well as place names. If the user specifies the Eiffel Tower, for example, the flight destination is recognised as Paris. On the basis of this information, Mildred then asks the Lufthansa “Best Price” database for the cheapest price for the requested connection.
“The production depth of Mildred is already significant but it is important for us to launch a beta version to give her the chance to learn,” said Dr Torsten Wingenter, Head of Digital Innovations, Lufthansa. “In the digital world, the speed and mindset of start-ups counts, which involves quickly testing a new version and integrating feedback from the target group.”
The best-price search is available to iPhone and Android users via the Facebook Messenger app. Users just have enter “Lufthansa Best Price” into the search window to start the dialogue. Mildred can also be used on desktop devices by visiting mildred.lh.com.
Lufthansa follows the likes of Icelandair and Austrian Airlines in developing a chatbot for the Facebook Messenger platform.