It is hard to believe that it has only been about a year since travelers started dabbling in ChatGPT-created itineraries. This year will bring even more experimentation and innovation. “A.I. is like a teenage intern,” said Chad Burt, co-owner of the travel adviser network Outside Agents, “better, smarter, faster than you, but you need to lead them.”
The expanding use of A.I. could influence how we book online, what happens when flights are canceled or delayed, and even how much we pay for tickets.
“In 2024, we will see a new breed of intelligent travel agents built on top of chatbots,” said Oren Etzioni, professor emeritus of computer science at the University of Washington. That means travelers will begin interacting with sites like Airbnb, Expedia and Priceline by typing out questions in addition to ticking boxes to search for lodging, restaurants and amenities like swimming pools.
A.I. will also power what happens behind the scenes at airlines and airports, said Gilbert Ott, director of partnerships at Point.me, which helps travelers find flights to buy with rewards points. For example, it could improve automatic rebooking onto new flights when customers miss connections or weather snarls runways. At United Airlines, for example, smarter software can offer rebooking options and issue food and lodging vouchers when a flight is canceled, rather than just rebooking a flight.
On the ground, A.I. software will be able to inform more human-made decisions, like how to most efficiently reposition baggage carts and staff in response to tight connections or flight delays.
Finally, A.I. systems trained on bigger and more up-to-date data sets will let airlines’ dynamic ticket-pricing algorithms better use data like weather predictions and customers’ searches to charge as much as they can while still filling planes. At the same time, companies like the online travel agency Hopper, which says it uses 70 trillion data points in its pricing prediction model, continue to work the problem from the other side, in a kind of A.I.-powered arms race between the airlines and customers.