Southwest Airlines Launches Small Business Program

It’s game to capture one of the hardest-to-reach but most trusted audiences emerging from the COVID-19 crisis, as big business has backed down on travel in favor of video conferencing and work policies. at home while small businesses have eager to win back customers with face-to-face meetings.

“A lot of these small and medium businesses just don’t have the structure to slow people down,” said Dave Harvey, vice president of Southwest Business. “If they don’t get people traveling to generate sales and develop new business, they could lose the business altogether.”

According the World Business Travel Association. That number quickly recovered in 2021 as travel picked up after travel restrictions fell, but has leveled off this year.

Business air travel purchases are still down around 25% from 2019, according to ticketing data service ARCa number that has stagnated as businesses now face economic headwinds on top of pandemic recovery setbacks.

Southwest has long boasted that small and medium-sized businesses are major customers even though the data doesn’t reflect that. Small customers are unlikely to appear on the data because their tickets are purchased outside of managed enterprise sales platforms.

Last year, Southwest has made a major effort to get in front of major corporate travel managers by entering the global distribution system for Saber based in Southlakethe largest platform of its kind in the world for business travel.

These types of systems are essential for airlines because business travel managers tend to use them first to book travel.

Harvey said Southwest has grown its enterprise sales team to about 250 people from just 20 a few years ago. But, Harvey said, small and medium-sized businesses often purchase tickets on a piecemeal basis, using airline or third-party websites.

“We don’t necessarily have dedicated account managers assigned to some of these smaller businesses,” he said.

Southwest completed the new referral program at 125,000 reward points, which would be worth approximately $1,875, according to Nerdwallet airline mile estimates. Those miles don’t go as far as they used to, as Southwest’s mile redemptions are price-based and airfares have increased in recent months with high demand.

“Most of these companies don’t have big international travel needs, it’s more domestic,” Harvey said. “When you think of our point-to-point network, that’s one of our strengths across the country.”

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Ryan H. Bowman