Aviation New Southwest res system enables flexibility, ancillary sales By Robert Silk / May 30, 2017 Share 1 Photo Credit: Shutterstock -- Southwest's long-anticipated move to the Amadeus Altea reservation system, which went live on May 9, will enable the carrier to have more flexibility in flight scheduling and provide it with more opportunities to sell ancillary products. Southwest and Amadeus worked in tandem over the course of three years to transition the airline's patchwork of reservation systems, including the Navitaire system that Southwest inherited from Airtran during the companies' 2014 merger. Southwest began operating international flights through Amadeus Altea in 2014. But until this month the carrier continued to run domestic operations through its original Cowboy system, which had been adopted from the long-defunct Braniff International Airways. Cowboy had limitations that might surprise many, considering that Southwest has grown into the largest U.S. airline in terms of domestic passengers. Notably, the system didn't have the capability to book flights that lasted over two different dates, thereby ruling out overnight flights. The new system makes overnight flights a possibility. It also enables Southwest to vary its schedule through the week. Under Cowboy, Southwest had to maintain the same flight schedule during weekdays and Sundays, but the carrier can now add extra frequencies as needed. Equally as significant, the Amadeus Altea system will enable Southwest to offer ancillary products. The carrier said it plans to do so but that it won't begin charging bag fees. Aviation industry analyst Bob Mann of R.W. Mann & Co. said it remains to be seen whether the carrier would begin red-eye flights. "They already have high utilization," he said of the company's aircraft. "Ultimately it will come down to whether they can make commercial use of the time or if they're better off using it for service and maintenance."Southwest said in an email that the new reservation system will also offer several other enhancements helpful to travelers. It should allow the carrier to optimize flight scheduling, thereby improving the typical connection time for transferring flyers and improve the company's ability to manage standby flyers. It allows for automatic rebookings during times of irregular operations, such as major storms.The system also offers efficiency improvements for travel agencies that book Southwest tickets through the GDS. "Agencies can now include at ticketing the customer's Rapid Reward numbers, eliminating the need to call Southwest Reservations," the company said in an email last week. "Additionally, Southwest Airlines is also returning the full e-ticket number in GDS reservations at ticketing. Prior to this change, travel agencies received only a pseudo ticket number in the passenger name record. "Both of these changes help reduce ticketing and back office reconciliation work for travel agencies."Chris Dane, president of the Hickory Global Partners consortium of travel management companies, said the changes will be helpful for companies that book Southwest corporate travel through the GDS. But he noted that larger TMCs typically book Southwest either through BookingBuilder software or SWABiz, Southwest's free corporate online booking tool. "For a smaller user, it's a big improvement," Dane said. Leisure agents said they don't expect the ticketing-procedure changes detailed by Southwest to make much difference, in large part because they mainly book Southwest flights in direct channels or through operators such as Funjet or Southwest Vacations. Mann said he sees potential advantages for travel agents beyond the ones mentioned by Southwest. The Amadeus Altea system, he said, should give Southwest the option of offering agencies last-seat availability through the GDS. As such, agencies would see the precise remaining inventory on each flight, rather than a cache of set-aside seats, as was the case under the Cowboy system. However, Susan Hakenjos, the general manager of Brentwood Travel in the St. Louis area, where Southwest has a sizeable presence, said she worries that greater functionality for Southwest could have at least one downside for flyers and travel agents. The new system, she said, makes it easier for the carrier to cancel flights that had been loaded for sale. "They are able to add flights and take flights away very easily, whereas before it was kind of in granite, so when they put in their availability it had to stay that way," Hakenjos said.