Now positioned predominantly as a service for small and midsized companies, Southwest Airlines’ Swabiz booking portal has a bunch of new features. The airline this month added hotel bookings, new reporting options and mobile itinerary changes.
Swabiz previously offered hotel bookings through a partnership with Orbitz. Then Expedia acquired Orbitz and opted to stop providing that service, according to Rob Brown, head of Southwest’s B2B channels team. Now, hotel bookings are back in the portal through Booking.com, which does the same for Southwest’s consumer site. Travel managers can get hotel booking reports. They also can toggle off hotel bookings if they’d rather travelers not book that way.
Swabiz has offered car rental bookings for many years, relying on direct connections to rental companies. Those, along with core air booking functionality and re-introduced hotel bookings, means Swabiz users now have a “one-stop shop,” Brown said.
New reporting shows unused Swabiz travel funds. Brown said corporate users “for years” requested that enhancement. Travel managers now also can see whether a booking came from Swabiz or a corporate booking tool connected directly via the Southwest Partner Services platform. New reports also detail the types of fares purchased. “That is particularly important in the SMB space for clients trying to manage fare types who may not be experts,” said Matt Smith, senior director of corporate sales.
Starting next month, travel managers will see origin and destination, flight arrival and flight number for each booking. They’ll also see traveler contact information. That info can feed into duty of care systems, Brown said. Travel managers also can opt to receive copies of any emailed confirmations to travelers.
Another new feature lets travelers modify Swabiz reservations through the Southwest mobile app or mobile website. Southwest has on its roadmap new Swabiz bookings via the mobile channel, but Brown said there was no specific timetable.
Meanwhile, Southwest continues to evaluate various external sales channels that would help grow corporate business. That doesn’t mean listing in all of them. “We want to understand the long-term objectives of a particular channel and make sure there is no competitiveness with Swabiz,” Brown explained. “We want to understand their customer base, and how much would be incremental to Southwest.”
Lola is one business travel startup that lacks Southwest inventory. Brown noted that the airline also had no agreement with TripActions. That hasn’t prevented TripActions clients from somehow booking Southwest, as they do Delta, despite no deal between Delta and TripActions. “We book Southwest in TripActions,” said Brandon Gries, event and travel coordinator for Hudl, a TripActions account. Southwest is Hudl’s No. 2 carrier.
“I would love to better understand how their clients are accessing our content, if they are,” Brown added.
On the corporate sales front, Smith claimed Southwest in 2018 more than quadrupled from last year the number of accounts with first-time agreements.
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