The round-the-world ticket is a project for oneworld, an alliance of 13 airlines including American Airlines, British Airways, Qantas, Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines. Its round-the-world tickets can have up to 16 different flights with stops of varying lengths over the course of a year.
Elemental Cognition supplies the technology behind a trip-planning intelligent agent on oneworld’s website. It was developed over the past year and introduced in April.
The user sees a global route map on the left and a chatbot dialogue begins on the right. A traveler starting from New York types in the desired locations — say, London, Rome and Tokyo. “OK,” replies the chatbot, “I have added London, Rome and Tokyo to the itinerary.”
Then, the customer wants to make changes — “add Paris before London,” and “replace Rome with Berlin.” That goes smoothly, too, before the system moves on to travel times and lengths of stays in each city.
Rob Gurney, chief executive of oneworld, is a former Qantas and British Airways executive familiar with the challenges of online travel planning and booking. Most chatbots are rigid systems that often repeat canned answers or make irrelevant suggestions, a frustrating “spiral of misery.”
Instead, Mr. Gurney said, the Elemental Cognition technology delivers a problem-solving dialogue on the fly. The rates of completing an itinerary online are three to four times higher than without the company’s software.