American Airlines and Southwest Airlines announced at the Global Business Travel Association convention in Chicago new programs that leverage technology to better serve business travelers and travel planning companies. Southwest is growing its business traveler service team and updating its online booking tool, while American is looking to appeal to executives on the go with priority check-in, preferred seating and other perks.
The moves, announced Monday at the Global Business Travel Association convention in Chicago, highlight the competition to lock in contracts with corporate buyers that can guarantee certain amounts of flying, often in upgraded cabins. In addition, business travelers are typically willing to pay more for tickets to have the added flexibility of booking just before travel.
Southwest’s expanded capabilities should be in place by mid-2020. The increased business from the initiative will add as much as $20 million to pretax earnings in the second half of next year, “with significant improvements expected in 2021 and beyond,” the Dallas-based carrier said in a statement.
Southwest Business, the new name for the carrier’s push, has updated its SWABIZ online booking tool, added more account managers across the U.S. and created a new business-to-business partner desk. Southwest, with its fare discounts, all-coach airplanes and no meal service, for much of its early history was more closely associated with leisure travelers.
Fort Worth-based American is trying to entice business flyers with preferred seating — window and aisle seats usually close to the front — at no charge, along with priority check-in, security processing and boarding for those booked under corporate travel accounts.
Such passengers also get help faster in rebooking when flights are canceled. The complimentary preferred seating will be available on American’s website and mobile app.
The carrier introduced the stepped-up offerings with little fanfare in April, waiting until now to publicize them. The benefits are also offered now to corporate travelers on flights under its joint business alliance with British Airways, Finnair and Iberia, American said Monday. Additional benefits will be offered to the partners by early next year.