That’s the Spirit - US ULCC gets more social as it uses WhatsApp to better connect with its customers

3 September, 2019

US ULCC Spirit Airlines is making a distinctive move with its decision to allow bookings and flight changes through text messaging platform, WhatsApp. The development was announced at a recent industry conference, and according to CNBC, the service debuted on 1-Sep-2019.

According to the publication, Spirit's customers will initially interact with a chatbot that provides basic information about a request and then a Spirit agent takes over, and from there, the customer follows an outside link for booking.

The Washington Post has reported that Spirit is charging USD25 for a new booking or modifications made through Whatsapp, which is the same fee charged to book on a traditional phone call. A Spirit spokesman told the publication that on WhatsApp, customers don't have to wait on hold and asking questions about travel is free.

The latest development with WhatsApp appear to be a low risk (and presumably low cost) way for Spirit to better connect with a customer set used to using WhatsApp for texting friends and family worldwide. The application is even becoming more regularly used as a business communication tool. Spirit doesn't have any other chatbot functionality, so this is a way for the airline to reach customers that prefer that specific experience.

"We launched this service to better connect with our guests, both domestically and abroad, as many have told us that they would rather communicate on a familiar and convenient service like WhatsApp," says Bobby Schroeter, vice president of sales & marketing at Spirit Airlines.

"We know WhatsApp is incredibly popular in the United States, but also in the more than two dozen destinations we serve in the Caribbean and Latin America. From travel updates to adding a bag to your reservation, this new messaging service allows guests to communicate with us in English and Spanish and to opt in to WhatsApp messaging. It is all part of our goal to elevate and improve our guest experience," he adds.

Spirit's new WhatsApp optionality is result of a larger partnership with LivePerson, which specialises in conversational commerce solutions. These new guest solutions will also leverage LivePerson's new AI-powered Maven Assist capability, which recommends the optimal next actions for human agents to take, including surfacing content or suggesting virtual assistants capable of responding to a guest's intent.

However, with concerns over how its users will feel, Spirit confirms "guests will still retain the ability to message with a live representative at any time during the process to address questions, comments and situations that are best suited for a live specialist".

In addition to new WhatsApp and messaging support, Spirit will continue to serve its Guests via its social media channels, on Twitter and Facebook. Over the past two years, Spirit has heavily invested in the customer experience touching all aspects of the journey, including on-time performance, traveller care technology, and in-flight products.