Spirit Airlines wants travelers to book flights via text message

Key Points
  • Spirit Airlines will start allowing customers to book and change flights via WhatsApp in September.
  • The service is rare among large carriers still, but other airlines have explored it.
  • The Spirit service will be available in English and Spanish.
A Spirit Airlines airplane takes off from Newark Liberty Airport.
Gary Hershorn | Getty Images

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Discount carrier Spirit Airlines is planning to roll out next month booking services via text message, allowing travelers to buy flights and change reservations through text messaging platform WhatsApp — with almost as much ease and informality as organizing happy hour drinks.

The service will start on Sept. 1. and will be available in English and Spanish.

Customers will first interact with a chatbot that will provide basic information about the request and then a Spirit agent will take over, said spokesperson Haven Kaplan. From there, the guest follows a link to complete the booking, outside of WhatsApp.

Airlines have been trying to find ways to drive more bookings to their own sites, instead of third-party online travel agencies.

Customer service over Twitter has become a bigger part of airline operations. For example, American Airlines embeds staff in its operation center in Fort Worth to assist travelers tweeting about flight delays and other problems.

Customer service and booking over text isn't yet widely available but airlines are exploring it. Delta Air Lines this summer said it started trialing text messaging on Apple devices for customer service questions with plans to roll it out broadly afterward.

United Airlines is also considering a chat platform to communicate with customers.

"We want to be available to connect with our customers on a variety of channels, and make it easy for them to reach us when they need support," said United spokeswoman Maddie King.

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