Sabre on Thursday launched a pilot program of an artificial intelligence-powered chatbot for travel agencies.

It is being piloted with agency Travel Services International USA, which is using it for corporate clients who can access it via Facebook Messenger or the agency's app.

"We believe the self-service convenience the bot offers will improve travelers' ability to resolve routine support requests," said Chad Callaghan, head of the Sabre Studios incubation team. "At the same time, we are happy to help our travel agency customers ensure agents can focus on supporting more complex traveler requests."

Sabre envisions that the chatbot will be used to fulfill common requests, like questions about a trip, changing existing flight reservations, requesting a special meal, picking seats and requesting an emailed itinerary.

If the chatbot cannot fulfill a request, a travel agent will step in.

While it is being tested, both Sabre and TSI will track how often travelers use the bot, and when an agent steps in.

TSI's bot is named Ella.

"Ella represents TSI's heritage of innovation and commitment to exploring new technologies and tools that can help our corporate customers and their busy employees," said Claire LeBuhn, vice president of support services at TSI.

Sabre's chatbot leverages Microsoft's Bot Framework and Microsoft Cognitive Services to understand users' requests.

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