At Flight Centre it is all about Sam and Claire as it makes two key ‘Labs’ technology investments

18 March, 2019

Flight Centre Travel Group has confirmed two new investments in its “Labs” programme that it hopes will help bolster its capabilities to incubate and bring to market emerging travel technologies to its corporate brands. These two additions will further increase the initiative’s portfolio in key areas such as mobile and artificial intelligence and increase the programme’s footprint to the technology development hubs of Barcelona and Bangkok.

Key to this has been the acquisition of the Sam :] mobile app that is already used by many of its corporate brands across several markets. The travel company had secured an initial 25% holding in Sam :] back in 2017 when it acquired a holding in Paris-based 3Mundi. It has now become the sole owner and licensor of the product and says it will “continue to drive the product roadmap to meet the needs of its corporate customers globally”.

Mobile travel assistant Sam:] is an IOS and android application that supports travellers with itinerary management, intelligent notifications and capabilities for live chat between consultants and customers. It automatically syncs calendars and TMC data, allowing travellers to view, change or cancel trips, can deliver alerts and notifications both before and during their trips, allow users to integrate their travel arrangements with other apps and providers, and to chat directly with their dedicated corporate travel manager.

Sam :] is currently used within FCM Travel Solutions, Corporate Traveler, Campus Travel, and Stage and Screen Travel, across 40+ Flight Centre markets. It will improved through the company increasing its investment in 30SecondsToFly and its Claire product, a booking engine driven completely by AI-powered chat and trip curation.

Flight Centre will now have FLT will have two years exclusive use of Claire in the large global TMC category, and the product will be fully integrated into Sam :] to provide AI-powered chat and booking capability for customers. The investment will increase Flight Centre’s stake in 30SecondsToFly to approximately 10%.

Riccardo Vittoria, CEO of 30SecondsToFly, which was initially formed in San Francisco in 2015 but now also has offices in Bangkok, says the deal will support its plan “to scale into the TMC market and establish Claire as the new standard for TMC call centre automation”.

Key features of Claire include an air and hotel booking engine via mobile interface and a chat-based booking flow and an omni-channel agent tool with actionable presentation layer for consistent experience between online and offline bookings

The “Labs” initiative is Flight Centre’s dedicated business travel technology centre, which is based in strategic locations around the world and working on delivering new solutions in the corporate travel sector. Its current Labs are to be found in Boston, London, Barcelona, and now Bangkok.

When Sam:] was first conceived back in late 2015, the brief was clear: create a mobile application for both Apple’s App Store and Google Play that will put business travellers’ needs first and put all the information, documentation and advice they need in one place in a fun, friendly, informal and easy-to-use way. Feedback would suggest it has succeeded in that goal, and The Blue Swan Daily reported just last month that Flight Centre has debuted new functionality within the app to support travel arrangers.