Southwest Airlines is continuing to try to win back customers wary of millions of travelers stranded across the country by the airline’s epic vacation debacle.
This time, CEO Bob Jordan’s apology is aimed at the very group of people he’s been trying to attract throughout the pandemic: business travelers.
During a town hall meeting on Monday, Jordan discussed the holiday fiasco with several other Southwest executives and described what the company is doing to ensure it doesn’t happen again. None of the airline’s priorities are “revolutionary” but aimed at improving the flying experience, he said.
“We’re still recovering our network from pre-pandemic,” Jordan said. “It involves adding features that we know you and your customers want. Power ports on airplanes, bigger litter boxes, additional functionality for apps, etc.”
Larger bins mean more room for luggage, less Checking bags at the gate reduces time on the ground and increases time in the air, said Ryan Greene, executive vice president and chief commercial officer of Southwest Airlines.
Green said the company will add the port — a must-have for business travelers — to all of its new aircraft and will transition to USB-A and USB-C ports on its Boeing 737 Max jets.
“Frankly, we just haven’t gotten the products we want or need over the last few years, so we’re investing in hardware upgrades,” Green said. “We’ve gone through about half the current fleet here. We’ll be completing the rest of the current fleet between now and summer.”
A few months before the holiday debacle, Southwest launched a referral program for small and medium-sized businesses, offering each company 25,000 bonus points to lure other companies into its managed travel system. The airline used the program to reach hard-to-reach audiences as it emerged from the economic downturn brought on by the pandemic.
In 2021, Southwest Airlines signed a distribution deal with Southlake-based Saber Corp., allowing thousands of business travel planners to see Southwest routes on their screens when booking travel for their employees without having to contact Southwest.com. Compare.
As for how vacation travelers are properly handled, Green said the company has returned most bags to customers within a week and processed about 93 percent of reimbursement requests from having to book a hotel room, rent a car or buy a competing airline Passengers on air tickets.