Southwest to end bare-bones content deal with Sabre

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Southwest to end bare-bones content deal with Sabre

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 third quarter.

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.
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Source: Business Travel News

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