What Southwest Just Did That is Great for Business Travelers

Good news — greater booking access is on the way for the corporate travel space.
Last updated May 23, 2023 | By Matt Miczulski
Southwest Airlines GDS Announcement for Business Travelers

We may receive compensation from the products and services mentioned in this story, but the opinions are the author's own. Compensation may impact where offers appear. We have not included all available products or offers. Learn more about how we make money and our editorial policies.

In a move to make corporate booking more accessible to travel managers and business travelers, Southwest Airlines has expanded its partnership with Travelport and Amadeus, two of the world’s largest providers of global distribution systems (GDSs).

The announcement was made Monday at the annual Global Business Travelers Association conference in Chicago and showcases the airline’s effort to further develop its business-focused operations. What does that mean for the average business person? More freedom for how you choose to do business with Southwest. And it can mean more opportunities to use one of the best travel credit cards for business. 

The airline’s newly named corporate travel effort, Southwest Business, will give travel managers access to more of the airline’s fares and flight schedules, enabling them to book, change, cancel, and modify reservations through their preferred channel. Also in place is a larger team devoted to bringing Southwest’s hospitality to thousands of businesses that rely on the airline to connect their people to the places they need to go.

So, wait, what’s a GDS?

Global distribution systems, or GDSs, have been a primary tool for travel agents for quite a while, allowing them to query and book airfare from a variety of airlines that participate in the service. Think of it as a database that has everything regarding routes, flight schedules, and availability; not just for one airline, but the consolidated data of many. Which GDS service a travel agent subscribes to determines which airline’s content they can access, as airlines can also decide whether or not they want to partner with any given GDS provider.

On the consumer side, if you’ve ever shopped for flights using an online travel agency, such as Expedia or Orbitz, you’ve indirectly accessed the information from a GDS. These travel agencies gather the information they need from the GDS and repackage it to provide consumers a means to shop for, compare, and purchase travel-related services.

What’s in it for Southwest?

Historically, Southwest has been harder for travel agents to do business with as the airline has not given their flights and fares to most GDS systems over Southwest’s nearly five decades of operations. With the exception of Sabre and Galileo — two popular GDS providers — the airline has preferred that its bookings occur in one place: Southwest.com. The same goes for its consumer side, which is why you can’t book Southwest flights through sites like Kayak and Orbitz.

However, Southwest has decided to shift away from a basic approach to an industry-standard GDS with full participation within Amadeus and Travelport. The airline’s move to be more accessible will allow them to reach new customers as they seek to expand their reach in the business travel space.

According to Southwest projections, this move to increase the company’s participation within these channels should open the doors to between $10 million and $20 million in additional revenue for the company during the second half of 2020. The airline expects to have flight data available for bookings by mid-2020.

This isn’t Southwest’s only business-focused move

Last month, Southwest followed other major airlines in joining NDC Exchange, a new marketplace for airline product sales, with the goal of pulling in more business travelers. The platform is a central location for airlines and travel agencies to connect and is particularly useful for the purchase of related products that remain largely unavailable through the GDSs, such as baggage fees and bundled fares.

Southwest is also partnering with Airline Reporting Corporation (ARC) — which, among other things, processes credit cards and cash transactions on behalf of airlines — for the reporting and settling of tickets booked through Travelport and Amadeus channels.

Additionally, Southwest continues to invest in and enhance its online booking tool, SWABIZ, which now provides enhanced reporting for travel managers and the ability to book cars and hotel rooms along with flights.

So, what's the TL;DR?

Travel managers who appreciate Southwest’s budget-friendly policies, such as not charging for flight changes and allowing travelers two free checked bags, should find the airline’s expanded accessibility particularly beneficial. And, of course, Southwest also offers a lineup of credit cards to help make business travel simpler and more rewarding. These are some of the best airline credit cards for business people who frequently fly with Southwest. 

Special Perks for Business Owners

Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card

Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card

Current Offer

80,000 points after you spend $5,000 in the first 3 months

Annual Fee


Rewards Rate

4X points on Southwest purchases; 3X on Rapid Rewards hotel and car partners; 2X on local transit and commuting, rideshare, social media and search engine advertising, internet, cable, and phone services; and 1X on everything else

Benefits and Drawbacks
Card Details

Author Details

Matt Miczulski Matt Miczulski is a personal finance writer specializing in financial news, budget travel, banking, and debt. His interest in personal finance took off after eliminating $30,000 in debt in just over a year, and his goal is to help others learn how to get ahead with better money management strategies. A lover of history, Matt hopes to use his passion for storytelling to shine a new light on how people think about money. His work has also been featured on MoneyDoneRight and Recruiter.com.