Gatwick Airport has launched a chatbot on Facebook Messenger that can provide flight updates and information on its retail and food outlets.
Passengers will need to message the new Gatwick Chatbot page rather than the main Gatwick Airport page.
The bot can currently only answer queries in English, but the airport says new languages will be added next year.
It also plans to expand the service to new platforms including Whatsapp and Apple Business Messenger.
Business Traveller tried putting a few questions to the bot, which Gatwick is calling Gail.
While it doesn’t provide any more information than you could find on the main Gatwick website, and the questions need to be fairly straightforward (it was puzzled by our queries about potential strike action this weekend and disabled assistance, for example) it does provide a convenient way to get flight updates via mobile, without having to download an app.
You also don’t need to look up your flight number; typing your destination will bring up a list of the different flights on a given day, and you can then choose to receive updates for it.
Asked where we could find items such as headphones, we were given a list of the different outlets in each terminal (Dixons, W H Smiths). Asking for specific food items like a burger or bagel brings up a generic list of restaurants. Gatwick recommends asking questions such as ‘which restaurants have vegetarian options?’
If you use the chatbot on a trip to Gatwick, let us know how it performs in comments.
The service is a collaboration with Gatwick’s new majority shareholder Vinci Airports, which introduced a chatbot into Lyon-Saint Exupéry airport in France in 2017.
It says that the bot currently understands and answers about 80 per cent of the questions it receives.
Abhi Chacko, Head of Innovation at Gatwick, said: “Our passengers are at the core of everything we do and the aim of this AI-enabled chatbot is to make it easy for them to get airport and flight related information.
“We have only just rolled this service out on Facebook Messenger but we expect that it will become popular and the chatbot will learn rapidly using artificial intelligence as an increasing number of our passengers use it.”