iXiGO.com, an Indian travel search engine has launched a natural language flight search tool for Facebook and Twitter. The tool allows Facebook and Twitter users to post a flight request on a wall or send a message to a Twitter page and in turn the user receives the cheapest flight fare and details within minutes.
For searching flights on Facebook, a user has to go to the company's Facebook Fan page and post a search query in natural language on its wall (e.g. 'Mumbai to Dubai next week' or 'Chennai to Singapore on 2nd July'). The user will receive a reply within a minute with a comment on his/her query with details of the cheapest flight found across multiple travel sites and a link to the relevant iXiGO.com result page where the users can filter the results by time/stops/price etc. They will also receive a direct link for booking the cheapest flight on the travel site where it is available.
Similarly, on Twitter, a user has to simply tweet a message directed to the @iXiGOsearch Twitter account (like '@iXiGOsearch BOM to DEL tomorrow' or '@iXiGOsearch Cheapest flight from Delhi to London in June') and iXiGOsearch will tweet back a response (again within a minute) with details of the cheapest flight and a link to view results and book the flight.
Rajnish Kumar, co-founder & CTO, iXiGO.com claims the company is pioneering the use of semantic search technology in online travel, "We have developed the capability of natural language processing. Our objective is to enable our users to converse with our search engine just the way they would converse with a travel agent or a friend. They can do flight searches in natural language, a simpler paradigm than choosing parameters in a form on a website."
Launched in June 2007 by Aloke Bajpai, Rajnish Kumar and Dharmendra Yashovardhan, Gurgaon based iXiGO.com positions itself as an online and mobile travel search engine. iXiGO.com searches across multiple airlines, hotels, trains, bus booking sites and online travel portals to find the best travel deals. Earlier, the company had launched travel search apps for iPhone and Android.
"Given that Facebook and Twitter have become an integral part of our lives and our users are increasingly spending more of their time on these platforms, we want to make it convenient for them to do flight searches from within these platforms," added Aloke Bajpai, founder and CEO, iXiGO.com.
The company has laid a lot of stress on the fact that users will get a reply 'within a minute' of posting their query, and we must say they are right in doing so. We tried posting search queries both on Twitter and Facebook and although their Facebook wall carried a message that read "We are facing technical issues & we will be back shortly! In the meanwhile, please post your flight queries on Twitter https://twitter.com/#!/iXiGOsearch", our search query on Twitter was responded with flight details (you guessed it!) within a minute. The twitter result gave the cheapest fare and airlines and a link to iXiGo's site with all search results.
Last year MakeMyTrip Ltd and private equity firm SAIF Partners had joined hands to acquire a majority stake in Le Travenues Technology Pvt Ltd, which owns and operates iXiGO. While MakeMyTrip picked up 19.9 per cent for a cash consideration of $4.8 million, SAIF acquired 56.7 per cent for $13.7 million. However, iXiGO remains OTA agnostic in the results that it throws back and there appears to be no preferential treatment to divert traffic to MakeMyTrip.
So what's new with the tool? It is just another way to attract consumers (on the move or otherwise) to get travel booking information using the social media network where people spend a good chunk of their time these days. The concept is interesting, making it simple for people to get information on cheapest fares for instance without having to go and check on a website.
But one would anyway need to open the search results into separate browsers or tabs to go ahead with the booking, so the pain points remain. The emphasis on speed of response is not lost on us and that is something we had noticed some OTAs doing recently. Read our verdict on GoIbibo's talk of being the fastest and whether it matters.