Sabre said its previously announced chatbot has gone into pilot with Travel Services International USA.

Using Microsoft technology, the chatbot can help travelers with self-service support requests, allowing agents focus on more complex needs, noted Sabre Studios director Chad Callaghan.

TSI clients will reach a white-label version of the chatbot through Facebook Messenger or TSI’s mobile app.

“Travelers will be able to ask trip-related questions, make voluntary changes to existing flight reservations, request a special meal, select and pay for a seat and request an emailed copy of an itinerary,” according to Sabre. “The chatbot will divert to a live travel agent if it is unable to fulfill a request.”

The partners will assess “preferences for how often and when they engage the chatbot and when they are likely to divert to a live agent.”

Travel management pros don’t want chatbots to simply replace email or, worse, be slower at reaching an agent than a phone call.

Sabre announced the initiative last summer. During an interview this month, Callaghan said that if the user interface proves worthy, there could be opportunities for in-trip experiences, cross-selling or up-selling.

“Different bots have different functionality,” he said. “It remains to be seen whether users will trust these interfaces.”

The most popular ways to contact agents remain, of course, email and phone. But social and chat options are hot in development circles.

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