An average of 50 million travelers search for flights using Skyscanner each month, so there’s no surprise the company chose to integrate with Facebook Messenger for more outreach. The instant messaging app has 900 million active users, so Skyscanner made a Skyscanner Facebook bot in May 2016 to connect with travelers where they mingle.
“Available to anyone on Facebook Messenger typing in English, the bot looks at flight search trends and digs out the cheapest prices to the most popular destinations available at the time,” explains Catherine McGloin, Skyscanner’s UK travel editor. Skyscanner director Filip Filipov adds: “The messaging economy and conversational search are areas which we believe are incredibly important evolutionary features for the travel industry.”
We decided to give it a spin to see if the Skyscanner bot is as helpful as promised. To start, we went to the official Skyscanner Facebook page and clicked “Message.” Doing so opened two new chat windows, one of which prompted us to open the new version of Skyscanner’s chatbot on Messenger.com.
After getting over the initial confusion, we stuck to our Facebook desktop and read through the bot’s options: “See an Example,” “Trips Next Weekend,” and “Start New Search.” Upon clicking “Trips Next Weekend,” the bot provided the dates of the upcoming weekend but without further details. Disappointed, we clicked “Start New Search” to try again, and clicked “See an Example” this time around. Finally, we were asked “Where do you want to go?”
We chose “Don’t Know” to gauge the AI of the Skyscanner Facebook bot, but again nothing happened. We went back to “Start New Search” and decided to go with the “Show Weekend Trips” option this time around. We were (again) presented with the dates of the upcoming weekend, but with no actual results.
In a last-ditch effort, we restarted our conversation with the bot and said upfront we wanted to travel from San Francisco, CA to London, UK – without waiting for a prompt from the bot. After a few seconds, the chatbot promised to reply “with results shortly.” After several minutes, the bot eventually showed the cheapest flights over the upcoming weekend.
For those who want a bot to do the “heavy lifting” in terms of travel booking, the buggy and non-responsive Skyscanner bot is not your best option. Puzzle-solving skills were required to extract meaningful results and even when received, the bot offered long periods of silence. While the bot may have hit an unusual glitch during our usage, we expected more from the world’s second largest flight search engine.
Perhaps Skyscanner should invest more of their recent $192 million in funding to improve their chatbot experience. For now, we recommend you stick to using the Skyscanner app or website.
Have you tried the Skyscanner bot? Have you had better luck than us? Let us know your comments below.