At the end of 2020, Southwest Airlines will cease the “basic booking request”
model through which it has worked with Sabre for decades, Southwest business vice
president Dave Harvey told Business Travel News.
The BBR model, a bare-bones content agreement through which
agents using Sabre can see Southwest’s flight schedules but have limited
capability for servicing bookings, has been in place since the 1990s as part of
a “longstanding and healthy relationship with Sabre,” Harvey said.
That model “served us well” but has been a growing source of
“friction” for customers in terms of workflow and working with the legacy
technology involved, he said.
“It’s also very limited in where we want to take future
offerings, things we might want to come to market with, so at this point in
time, it’s time to sunset [Sabre’s BBR model],” Harvey said.
In the meantime, Southwest has drastically altered its
distribution strategy over the past year by signing agreements with both
Travelport and Amadeus that provide content and full booking capabilities in
their respective global distribution systems. Its content went live in
Travelport’s Apollo and Worldspan GDSs in early May and in Galileo earlier this
month, and Harvey said content should be available in Amadeus by the end of the
Southwest had been in negotiations with Sabre for enhanced
GDS participation but announced in January that those talks had ended.
Harvey did not give an exact number of customers currently
using the BBR solution with Sabre, though he said it was a “large number.” That
includes a “healthy number of business customers,” Southwest senior director of
B2B strategy and services Rob Brown said, particularly as the model was the
only means of booking Southwest content outside of direct channels for years
until the airline reached a limited content agreement with Galileo in 2007.
Besides the recent content agreements, Southwest has opened
up its distribution options, including its API, which went live in 2010, and
Swabiz. As such, most customers using the BBR with Sabre are using a hybrid
set-up, and “very few” use that as their only method, Harvey said.
“We have broadened the channel portfolio and given other
ways that customers can connect to Southwest, so we’re coming to the
marketplace with a portfolio of options,” Brown said.
Southwest still has a relationship with Sabre, including via
its Intelligence Exchange digital marketplace and its GetThere booking tool.
The possibility still remains that talks for enhanced distribution with Sabre
could revive later this year or next year, Harvey said.
Source: Business Travel News