• BURN MEDIA
    • Motorburn
      Because cars are gadgets
    • Gearburn
      Incisive reviews for the gadget obsessed
    • Ventureburn
      Startup news for emerging markets
    • Jobsburn
      Digital industry jobs for the anti 9 to 5!

Lufthansa’s Mildred joins Facebook’s bot family

2016 has truly been the year of the chat bot, as Facebook, Microsoft and Google get in on the action. The latest company to craft a chat bot? Why, that would be Lufthansa…

The German carrier has announced the availability of Mildred (at least it’s not Gertrude), a Messenger chat bot that simply allows you to search for ticket prices via Facebook.

As you’d expect, Mildred makes use of natural language processing, so you can pose questions in a human fashion rather than going for the search engine-style approach.

It’s all rather straightforward, as you specify a language (English or German — more languages will follow) and then ask your question. You can request pricing for different classes as well, such as Business or Economy, with the class being persistent unless otherwise stated. So that means if you made a Business Class query as your last, you’ll need to specify Economy Class in your next.

The bot will spit out dates up to nine months in advance, but you can choose a timeframe if you have something more specific in mind.

“How much would a July flight from Johannesburg to Berlin cost in Economy?” works just fine as a query, I found.

If you’re happy with the price, you can make the final purchase via the mobile website.

Lufthansa’s Mildred isn’t the first flight-oriented chat bot, but it’s cool nonetheless

“The chat bot knows the nearest airport from which Lufthansa departs and can then find the cheapest prices for an outbound flight with a return flight seven days later,” the airline’s local representatives wrote in an emailed press statement.

“Mildred will certainly come in useful for South African’s needing a quick, convenient, and easy way to search for flights on Lufthansa. Mildred will search for flights departing from either Johannesburg or Cape Town; Johannesburg flying to either Frankfurt or Munich, while Capetonians can now book a direct flight between Cape Town and Frankfurt, and onward to over 200 destinations serviced through the Frankfurt hub,” said Andre Schultz, General Manager of Lufthansa Southern Africa.

In a neat move, Mildred also uses Google’s Geolocation database, so if you were to specify a landmark or sightseeing destination, the city would be recognised.

The chat bot is still in beta, but the developers add that the release will help it to learn.

“The production depth of Mildred is already significant but it is important for us to launch a beta version to give her the chance to learn. In the digital world, the speed and mindset of startups counts, which involves quickly testing a new version and integrating feedback from the target group,” says Dr Torsten Wingenter, Head of Digital Innovations.

Mildred is available on Android and iOS Messenger apps, while desktop users can click here to check it out.

We’ve rounded up nine of the coolest Facebook chat bots around, check it out here.

Author | Hadlee Simons

Hadlee Simons
Terrible puns make Hadlee Simons difficult to work with, but he brings almost seven years of tech journalism experience to the table. When he's not at work or watching motorsport, he's in the foetal position on a jiu jitsu mat. More