It's a significant step since the launch of Southwest Business last year, designed to tap into the travel management community. Before the crisis, roughly a third of the airline’s traffic was corporate travel. This move could help it boost that market share.
Southwest Airlines has flipped the switch on Travelport’s Apollo and Worldspan global distribution systems.
The new content deal will allow corporate travel buyers and travel management companies to modify — or service — reservations via Apollo or Worldspan. Previously, they could only book or cancel a reservation through a global distribution system.
The partnership follows its August 2019 announcement that it had signed agreements with Amadeus and Travelport. The integration was due to be ready by this summer, but looks like it’s been brought forward due to the pandemic.
After the crisis, airlines will look to leverage as many as distribution channels as possible to help bookings flow, including direct sales. Lucrative corporate travel bookings stand to help the airline recover at a faster pace.
In addition, Southwest said it will settle tickets booked via the global distribution systems through Airlines Reporting Corporation (ARC).
“While we weather the current business climate, today and every day, we’re working as hard as we can to be ready for a rebound and welcome travelers back to the skies with the warmth and hospitality they’ve come to know and love about Southwest,” said Andrew Watterson, Southwest’s executive vice president and chief commercial officer.
“Our partnership with Southwest Airlines is one of the most exciting opportunities for us to deliver more value to our travel agencies, extend Southwest’s reach to new customers, and together make managing travel easier as travel restrictions ease,” said Greg Webb, Travelport’s CEO.
“This level of access offers agents a single point of sale for shopping, pricing, booking, and after-sale support, providing for an unprecedented level of superior customer service.”
The partnership with Amadeus will take place by the end of the year, the airline said, but there has been no announcement on a tie-up with Sabre.
Southwest’s CEO Gary Kelly has previously said he expects business travel will return after the sharp drop-off. “I know a lot of people are using Zoom and there’s predictions it will forevermore change meetings, and I just don’t believe that,” he said. “I think it’s just one more tool that people have. And if you’re like me, I’m sick of these Zoom calls.”
Photo credit: Southwest Airlines jets at an airport. Associated Press