Icelandair has teamed up with French travel-focused eCommerce company Travelaer to offer passengers the option of using the airline’s Facebook Messenger Stopover Bot to book flights through Facebook Messenger, eliminating the need for additional downloads, plugins or extensions.
Putting the flight point-of-sale outside of the company’s own website and onto a bot-driven form of social media is a first-of-its-kind in the travel industry, and part of a growing trend that’s referred to as “conversational commerce”.
Although Dutch airline KLM started offering to send flight documentation via Facebook Messenger earlier this year, allowing passengers to receive booking confirmation, check-in notification, boarding pass and flight status updates, Icelandair has beaten every other airline to the punch in allowing passengers to actually search for and purchase flights inside Messenger.
“We want to constantly improve the travel ecosystem for consumers, starting from the very beginning of their booking experience,” says Icelandair Director of Marketing and Business Development Guðmundur Óskarsson. “Placing Icelandair ahead of the game and making flight bookings available through Facebook Messenger, marks the commitment to our customers. We know what platforms our customers use and want to embrace new ways to communicate and offer valuable interactions with them in that space. Through this thinking we hope to position ourselves as more than just an airline but as a software company and the launch of the Stopover Bot is another step towards our aim of customers being able to book a flight anywhere at any time.”
The Stopover Bot not only allows passengers to search for and book flights, but can also provide content rich answers to frequently asked questions, incorporating text, photos and video.
Customers can begin the booking process by messaging @Icelandair or finding Icelandair’s Facebook page and hitting the Message button.
“We work with airlines that understand customer relationships must be unobtrusive, but always available,” says Travelaer on its website, adding that it prefers “airlines that understand that highly reactive product development is bad for business and continuously bolting on new functionality isn’t a product strategy.”
Allowing passengers to make purchases and interact with brands through interactions with bot platforms like Facebook Messenger indicates a further shift away from the already suffering app development ecosystem.
Consumers are expressing a preference for having a seamless experience inside apps that they already use, rather than having to download a separate app for each company, airline or travel agency that they interact with.
Icelandair really wants you to stop over and discover Iceland, offering at no additional cost the possibility to work Iceland into your itinerary for up to seven nights.
It’s worth it. Years ago, on a flight from Europe back to Halifax on Icelandair, the airline offered passengers stopped over at the Keflavik Airport the opportunity to take a bus tour to visit a hot spring and tour the countryside, a chance that I and a small group jumped at.
Whereas most “stopovers” are just massively inconvenient, that particular unplanned trip made me eager to plan a return visit to Iceland and stuck an exclamation mark at the end of a European vacation, instead of just a period.
Icelandair offers daily flights from Halifax, and service from Toronto, Montreal, Edmonton and Vancouver.
At the moment, the Icelandair Messenger Bot functions only in English.