The newly expanded partnership between Southwest Airlines and Sabre GDS is now live, bringing the airline to a higher operating level via Sabre: a boon for corporate travel managers and travel management companies industry-wide.
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After much anticipation and collaboration between the two companies, Southwest Airlines went live with their newly expanded partnership with Sabre GDS as of July 26, 2021.
As part of Southwest’s broadening GDS strategy, the evolved alliance will see the airline operating at a higher level of participation via Sabre and with richer capabilities, like full ARC ticketing and settlement: something corporate travel managers and travel management companies have been patiently anticipating.
“It’s been a long journey with Sabre, but we are excited to deliver on this long-desired ask from our customers,” said Eric Hall, director, B2B Channels and TMC Strategy, at Southwest.
Ahead of a potential business travel rebound in the second half of 2021, and on top of the already strong leisure market, the new partnership opens the door to new protocols, greater efficiencies, and a smoother booking experience.
“Driven by a mutual desire to better service our customers and agency partners, Southwest and Sabre rekindled the conversation in late Q4 2020 and worked through the holidays to get a deal signed,” said Hall.
The alliance marks a strong step for the airline’s 2021 strategy. It’s a win-win for all parties involved, particularly business flyers and decision makers.
SMOOTHER, STREAMLINED BOOKINGS
In previous decades, booking Southwest via Sabre was a cumbersome process for corporate travel managers and travel management companies. It meant extra training and workflow steps, resulting in lost productivity — customers had to cover additional fees from Sabre if they wanted to book Southwest via their travel management company.
“Our partnership evolution with Sabre couldn’t have come at a better time,” added Hall. “With our standard connectivity now in place, a lot of the historical inefficiencies booking and managing Southwest tickets have been removed.”
The evolving partnership with Sabre brings forward additional fare content and more robust booking capabilities such as last seat availability, reusable and refundable ticket management, ability to change and modify reservations, and more.
“Now, travel management companies will be able to book Southwest in more standard workflows, with the biggest win being able to self-service Southwest tickets in the GDS, removing the need to call Southwest for GDS ticket management,” he said.
THE INDUSTRY’S RESPONSE
Naturally, the expanded functionality has full support from corporate travel managers and travel management companies — and their customers stand to benefit directly.
“Previously, we had to rely heavily on Southwest or leverage APIs through the online booking tools,” said Jeff Ochaita, Adelman Travel’s director of customer technology and global solutions.
Ochaita highlighted the fact that Adelman clients have always been aware that Southwest content was more restricted than other airlines, and that they’ve always wanted better access to all Southwest’s content and fare choices.
“This new alliance with Sabre will allow us to process bookings much more efficiently … (giving) us more control and allowing Adelman to better manage client expectations and the traveler experience,” he explained.
THE BROADER STRATEGY
The evolved partnership marks a core piece of Southwest’s ‘Channel of Choice’ strategy, which the airline is focused on throughout 2021 and beyond. “We’re all in,” said Hall: “… investing in and evolving each of our B2B channels (SWABIZ, our API, GDS) to better meet the needs of customers and agency partners who prefer to use different channels for various reasons.”
With travel advisors now able to research and book Southwest reservations more seamlessly, travel management company partners will also see a major boost to productivity, helping reduce costs to their businesses.
“This expanded functionality will allow us to enhance and streamline our proprietary products to manage Southwest bookings as we do other carriers by applying certain processes such as pre-trip approval, unused ticket management, and fare recheck, to name a few,” added Ochaita.
The alliance also dovetails with the potential recovery of business travel in Q3 and Q4 — as an incentive to return to the skies, corporate customers can expect to see fewer errors and declines when requesting travel on Southwest, as well as a reduction in additional costs to book or get travel management company service on a Southwest reservation.
Ultimately, business travelers across the board are set to benefit from the enhanced functionality and experience of the Southwest and Sabre alliance: a timely and much needed upgrade, and a boon for all parties involved.