How Southwest Business Is Simplifying Corporate Air Travel Management

Skift Take

As business travel approaches pre-pandemic levels, Southwest Business is streamlining corporate air travel management. By enhancing booking systems, introducing a self-service portal, and maintaining dedicated support, Southwest aims to ensure flexibility and efficiency for travel managers and travelers alike.

This sponsored content was created in collaboration with a Skift partner.

Business travel is back — well, almost. According to Skift Research, business travel will reach 95 percent of its pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2024. This resurgence marks a significant recovery for corporate travel, which had been lagging behind leisure travel. 

In this resurgent landscape, travel managers have become more critical than ever in streamlining the air booking process, ensuring it aligns with company policies while seeking solutions that simplify management tasks and maintain compliance. 

Southwest Airlines has continued to expand its services within the business travel sector to help travel managers achieve their goals, offering enhanced capabilities to book, modify, and manage flights through multiple distribution channels, including global distribution systems (GDS), direct connect application programming interfaces (API), and its own proprietary booking platform, SWABIZ. 

“Anticipating the growth in business travel this year allowed us to move forward with many key enhancements to enable travel managers to manage their Southwest travel programs better,” said Ryan Green, executive vice president and chief commercial officer at Southwest Business. “Our goal is to make business travel simple and easy for everyone involved — and for travel managers, that starts by offering flexible self-service options, customizable programs, and robust tools to simplify program management.”

A Flexible and User-Friendly Self-Service Portal 

Leaning into flexibility led Southwest Business to create a self-service portal in 2022, Southwest Business Assist, which enables travel managers to manage travel more autonomously, reducing friction and improving the customer experience. The unified portal is a “one-stop shop” for travel managers to oversee travel agreements, handle requests, track funds and credits, and stay updated with promotional content. 

“With the rise of hybrid work environments and blended travel scenarios, our priority for Southwest Business Assist is to remove friction and provide as much flexibility for travel managers as possible,” Green said. “Since launching the portal, we have continually added new functionality, including improved reporting, more in-depth dashboards, sustainability tracking, and the ability to contract and book travel for meetings and events.”

As unique corporate travel opportunities emerge, Southwest Business Assist provides actionable insights and user-friendly tools that support travel managers in managing complex travel programs and situations, extensive reporting requirements, and duty-of-care responsibilities. 

“Southwest Business Assist is a valuable tool in my travel manager toolkit,” said Sabrina Kronk, travel manager of a university that works with Southwest Business. “It gives me a near real-time overview of all that’s happening in my travel program. Every day, there’s a plot twist or multiple plot twists, so having partners that support me when something unexpected happens is essential.”

Simple Contracts and Multichannel Distribution 

According to Green, another key differentiator for Southwest Business is its emphasis on simple, straightforward, and easy-to-understand contract terms, reflecting a move away from complex agreements and restrictive policies. 

“We put customers first in every aspect of the travel experience, and this extends to everything a corporate travel program entails, including contract simplicity and offering diverse channel options,” Green said. “Our goal is to continue differentiating ourselves by removing friction in this space while bringing flexible, unique offerings to the marketplace to meet those needs and make it easier to do business.” 

Kronk appreciates the flexible terms outlined in her contract with Southwest Business, which allows refunds on non-refundable tickets if necessary and lets her change the name on a ticket to allow a different person within her organization to travel if the original attendee cannot.

“These may seem like simple tasks, but having the ability to leverage these options within our contracts is incredibly valuable,” Kronk said. “We also appreciate that Southwest offers multiple booking channels — having all those flights in the GDS is incredibly important for us because it keeps everyone in compliance.” 

Dedicated Support for Travel Managers

At a time when some airlines are scaling back or even eliminating their sales teams, Southwest Business remains committed to offering dedicated account manager support for travel managers. 

“Our team of trusted advisors significantly contributes to creating a more efficient and supportive environment for corporate travel managers,” Green said. “Team members are readily available to help travel managers address any issues or concerns that may arise before, during, or after travel occurs.” 

In addition to the human hospitality found within those support teams, the digital tools offered by Southwest Business Assist provide comprehensive insight and analytics in near real-time, so travel managers can make necessary data-driven decisions and manage their travel programs more effectively. 

“By streamlining those administrative tasks and offering robust reporting options, these tools alleviate the burden on travel managers and allow them to focus on their more important duty-of-care responsibilities,” Green said.

What’s Next for Southwest Business? 

With more business travelers getting back on the road this year, Southwest Business continues to develop additional tools, capabilities, and enhancements designed to meet the ever-evolving needs of those managing their company’s travel.

“Before we take on any initiative or pursue new capabilities, we seek feedback from customers to better understand their needs,” Green said. “For example, we’re working on a revamped tool to make booking groups easier and more manageable. Enterprise-wide, we’re hard at work adding in-seat power and larger overhead bins, and improving our digital hospitality for customers with new features on our app, including tracking bags and listing to fly standby on earlier flights. These combined investments support our goal to be trusted travel partners for businesses across the country as we work to design flexible solutions that fit their needs.” 

To learn more about which business travel offerings are right for you, click here.

This content was created collaboratively by Southwest Business and Skift’s branded content studio, SkiftX.

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