Southwest adds features to Business Assist portal

Southwest Airlines has updated its Southwest Business Assist portal, which it launched in August, with new features and functionality, the carrier announced Monday during a Southwest Business town hall for corporate buyers.

The new features include a “partner benefits” section that vice president and chief sales officer Dave Harvey said some buyers refer to as “waivers and favors.” Corporate customers now will have a credit bank tied to their contract for opportunities to earn and redeem credits for A-List and A-List Preferred upgrade requests, name changes and visibility to a no-show report, according to Southwest.

“It gives you flexibility for how you want to spend those credits tied to your contract,” Harvey said. 

An expanded version that can be negotiated into contracts allows for the ability to grant companion passes to customers, transfer Southwest flight credits to a UATP card and refund a nonrefundable flight credit, according to Southwest. The benefits have an assigned value redeemed via Southwest Business Assist, and credits are earned via upfront negotiations and meeting quarterly performance targets.

Live chat had been available for accounts with the B2B premier partner service desk but now it has expanded to all corporate customers. Related to chat is “Pay by Link” functionality within the reservation system, which allows an agent to collect payment for tickets or changes within the chat without needing to pick up the phone. Agents can share a secure link in the chat for customers to input their payment method, and the payment will be applied to the booking or modification, and the agent can close the transaction, according to Southwest.

In addition, corporate customers now can transfer Southwest flight credits to another traveler except for Wanna Get Away fares. There also is expanded sustainability reporting with an emissions calculator, and real-time traveler tracking. “In the moment you can see if all of your travelers have checked in, if they have boarded and the flight status,” Harvey said. 

Further features include additional contract dashboards for customers enrolled in Rapid Rewards Business to track points, details around sustainable aviation fuel agreement tracking, and performance rebate tracking and reporting for participating customers.

Disruption mitigation actions

President and CEO Bob Jordan and executive vice president and chief commercial officer Ryan Green, also on the call, again extended apologies for the December disruptions and outlined for buyers what executives discussed on the company’s fourth-quarter earnings call last week in terms of what actions were underway to reduce the risk of such an event from happening again.

In addition to putting in an early-alert dashboard control center, Southwest has added 100 to 120 crew reschedulers, Jordan said. It also is getting more engine covers to help stop ice from forming on them. 

The carrier has hired consulting firm Oliver Wyman to review what happened in late December. The firm will be talking to people in the field and union representatives “to get to the root causes, and to try to reconstruct events to see what the company could have done better,” Jordan added. The report is expected in the coming weeks. 

Southwest’s board of directors also has created an operations overview committee to understand what happened and the company’s response. “We will learn from this,” Jordan said. “We will be a better airline as you would expect.”

Source: Business Travel News

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