Skift Take

Southwest has been long known for not listing its fares on Google Flights or with online travel agencies.

Something that was once seen as unlikely now seems to be a reality: Southwest Airlines is on Google Flights. 

It’s unclear when exactly the change occurred, but it appears that Southwest fares began popping up on Google Flights Wednesday. The carrier has been long known for not listing its fares on Google Flights or online travel agencies as a way to cut out distribution costs and to build loyalty among its customers.

Southwest flights from Dallas Love Field to Denver appeared on Google Flights Wednesday afternoon.

Southwest said it wanted to increase its visibility on the travel platform.

“We’re extending the reach of by giving users of Google Flights enhanced visibility into our available flights, fares, and the benefits of our products and services,” Southwest said in a statement. “In our initial piloting of this partnership, we’ve made it possible for Google Flights users to compare our different fare options and click directly into to book their selected itinerary.” 

This marks one of the biggest strategy shifts in Southwest’s history as the carrier looks for ways to remain competitive amid an international and premium travel boom. 

Besides a change in consumer preferences, the airline has also been affected by Boeing delivery delays as it has cut capacity and paused pilot and flight attendant hiring.

The carrier’s flights also started appearing on Chase Travel’s booking portal, but so far, other credit card companies don’t have access to Southwest flights.

Southwest may also have a benefit with displaying fares on Google Flights, according to travel blog View From the Wing. The new Department of Transportation rules require airlines to disclose all ancillary fees associated with purchasing a ticket, even on third-party sites. Southwest already didn’t have change fees or checked bag fees, so displaying fares on Google Flights may make it look more attractive compared to its competitors.

Southwest Considers Bigger Changes

Southwest is currently conducting an in-depth study into consumer preferences as it debates making more major changes to its model. The airline hasn’t conducted such a study in several years, CEO Bob Jordan said during a call with analysts April 25.

In particular, Jordan said Southwest is weighing whether to implement assigned seating and to add premium cabins to its fleet. These changes would be some of the biggest for Southwest, which has used its economy seating and open boarding process to differentiate itself in the industry.

“We remain committed to our industry-best, customer-friendly policies, but we are also committed to understanding and meeting customer expectations,” Jordan said during the call. “We have transformed before, adding things like Wi-Fi, larger bins and in-seat power, and we will continue to adapt as needed.” 

The carrier reported a first-quarter loss of $231 million compared to $159 million during the same time last year, which was slightly below Wall Street expectations and worse compared to many of its competitors. 

At the Skift Aviation Forum 2023, Jordan said there was “nothing underway, no story there,” when asked about changing seating and boarding.  

However, Jordan said Southwest would not consider baggage fees. American Airlines, United Airlines and JetBlue have raised baggage fees, citing inflation and rising operating costs. Southwest, on the other hand, lets customers check in two bags without any fees. 

“The reason we’re not considering bag fees is because people choose Southwest Airlines because we don’t have bag fees,” Jordan said. 

Watch Southwest CEO Bob Jordan at the Skift Aviation Forum 2023 Here:

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Tags: airlines, Boeing, business travel, google, google flights, ota, southwest, southwest airlines, travel booking

Photo credit: Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 tails at Pittsburgh International Airport. Pittsburgh International Airport / Flickr

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