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Lyn writes about Southwest on her GotoTravelGal.com blog and has written a free guide to help you earn the Southwest Companion Pass step-by-step. Emily and I believe the Southwest Companion Pass is the best deal in travel! I’ve asked Lyn to give us an update on Southwest’s reservation system and when we can expect changes and improvements.
Lyn: You may have noticed some things about Southwest that are different than other airlines. Of course, their service is outstanding (which is a big reason why I love to fly Southwest!) and they offer amazing deals like the Southwest Companion Pass. But they also schedule flights differently and you won’t find them on sites like Expedia or Google Flights.
I’ll give you a quick overview of the latest intel about when more updates are coming to Southwest’s booking system. And show you how it may affect us as their customers.
What Is Southwest’s System Now?
In July of 2016, Southwest suffered a major reservations system outage, which caused them to cancel more than 2,000 flights. And created major chaos at US airports. While, as always, the airline provided great customer service throughout the fiasco, it showed how much its reservations system, which launched in the 1980s, needed a major overhaul.
In December, the airline announced they were beginning the process of updating to a new booking system – hooray!
One of the biggest issues for Southwest is that it has been running the same flight schedule Sunday through Friday with Saturday running on its own schedule. Their system did not allow for much, if any, flexibility in how it scheduled flights. In March, they announced independent schedules for Saturday AND Sunday for the flight schedule through November 3, 2017.
The flexibility in scheduling flights according to demand would have to be a huge revenue generator though it’s also a major expense. In January, I flew to Indianapolis from Laguardia in New York City on a flight with 10 people! How in the world could they not be losing money on that flight?! According to the Dallas Morning News, the new system IS estimated to bring an additional $500 million in earnings by 2020.
How the Reservations System Will Change
The next set of improvements is scheduled for May, which the Dallas Morning News says, will improve “day-of-flight functions, such as issuing boarding passes and checking bags.” This should help with re-booking flights, and less time between connecting flights, checking bags and getting boarding passes.
According to Cranky Flier, beginning May 9, 2017, all of Southwest’s flights will be operating on the new system, allowing for increased flexibility. Southwest is scheduled to release November and December 2017, and January 2018 flights on May 18, so hopefully we’ll see some updates at that time.
Future additions will allow the airline to offer red-eye flights and change flight schedules based on day, time and demand, as well as accept foreign currency (which is important as they look to continue to expand internationally – Canada anyone?) and change pricing more quickly.
I suspect getting the new system in place will also increase chances of the airline flying to Hawaii, as they will be more efficient and have better logistics in place required for this destination.
Will prices go up because of these improvements? I hope not! According to the Dallas Morning News, Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly said, “We have no thought of charging for bags…We’ll have capabilities in the future that would allow us to assign seats. Right now, we don’t have any thought that that’s anything that we want to do.”
We can also look forward to faster Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi on ALL planes by the end of 2017. Yea!
Southwest is working hard to update its reservation system to not only improve efficiencies and effectiveness internally but to offer better flight options and quicker re-booking and connecting flights to passengers. Stay tuned for May 9, 2017, to see if the flight schedule changes dramatically.
What changes do you wish Southwest would make?