Sky Talk

Southwest Airlines turns on new reservations system

Southwest Airlines’ transition to a new reservations system has taken more than three years.
Southwest Airlines’ transition to a new reservations system has taken more than three years.

Southwest Airlines quietly flipped the switch to a new reservations system Tuesday.

The Dallas-based carrier said it did not experience any significant technical difficulties or flight delays when it cut over from its old reservations platform to its new Amadeus Altea system. By early afternoon, Southwest said its on-time operations were running around 93 percent for the day.

However, some customers outside of the U.S. reportedly were having problems Tuesday morning, but Southwest said it was unrelated to the system switchover.

“Transitioning to a single reservation system is a transformational milestone for Southwest, and in fact, it’s the single largest technology initiative in our company’s history,” Southwest chief executive Gary Kelly said.

By moving to a new reservations system, Southwest said it will be able to optimize its flight schedule and automatically rebook customers whose flights are canceled, such as during bad weather. The new system will also help the airline improve connection times and keep track of ancillary fees such as its EarlyBird check-in and Business Select products.

Southwest said it expects the new reservation system to generate about $500 million in incremental revenues by 2020.

The transition has taken more than three years and included more than 1,500 employees from Southwest and Amadeus, the travel technology firm. Southwest first started using Altea for tickets purchased for international flights in July 2014 and then, in December, Southwest started selling domestic tickets on the system for flights after May 8.

In an interview earlier this year, Southwest President Tom Nealon said he expected customers wouldn’t even notice the transition to the new reservations system.

“The website won’t look different. The mobile app won’t look different. The kiosks won’t look different,” Nealon said. “From a customer perspective, it will be transparent.”

Andrea Ahles: 817-390-7631, @Sky_Talk