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New artificial intelligence promises to make travel a little smarter. Does it? | Christopher Elliot

The Terminator wants to be your next travel agent.

New artificial intelligence (AI) technologies promise to make travel a little smarter. The latest entrant is Aeromexico’s new AI-based customer-service bot, billed as a “smart brain” capable of machine learning. It launched this year in Spanish on Facebook, and an English version is being rolled out now.

But do they really live up to the billing? It depends. There’s little doubt that AI is improving the bottom line for airlines, hotels and car-rental companies, which are aggressively integrating this technology into their operations. But for consumers, there are only a few AI-enabled apps and sites that offer a meaningful improvement, if any.

Nearly 85 percent of travel and hospitality professionals are using AI within their businesses, according to a recent survey by Tata Consultancy Services, which is based in India. So far, the use is largely limited to their information-technology departments, with 46 percent of companies saying they use it for functions such as processing bookings and credit-card transactions. But within four years, 60 percent of companies surveyed said that AI would expand to their marketing efforts — persuading you to book their products.

Indeed, most of the AI firepower is reserved for the back-end systems designed to squeeze more profit out of an airline seat or hotel room, or to improve the efficiency of airport operations. For example, flight disruptions cost airlines billions each year, so airports are deploying AI systems to quickly deal with irregular operations. A company called SITA is working with airports to create an algorithm to forecast airline delays.

“This is a huge cost for the industry,” says Jim Peters, SITA’s chief technology officer. “There is a strong desire to remove as much uncertainty as…

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