Southwest Airlines preps coronavirus rebound by targeting business travelers

COVID-19 has put a strain on travel, leaving fewer people taking planes

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Southwest Airlines, which has taken a hit in the coronavirus shutdown, said Monday it will allow corporate travel bookings through industry-standard business booking systems.

“Our new GDS capabilities allow business travel managers the ability to book, modify, and cancel Southwest travel without having to pick up the phone, and they can better track and manage their organization's travel,” Andrew Watterson, Southwest's executive vice president and chief commercial officer, said in a statement.

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LUVSOUTHWEST AIRLINES CO.48.00-0.25-0.52%

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The carrier’s booking, ticketing and functionality with business-relevant content are available through Travelport's Apollo and Worldpsan Global Distribution Systems. The company will settle tickets booked with GDS through Airlines Reporting Corporation.

Southwest said it plans to add similar capabilities to Amadeus' GDS later in 2020.

While some states have slowly begun to reopen, the travel industry has been under intense strain as the COVID-19 outbreak shut down businesses and forced people to stay at home.

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Southwest’s stock has dropped 50 percent in the last three months.

“While we weather the current business climate, today and every day, we're working as hard as we can to be ready for a rebound and welcome travelers back to the skies with the warmth and hospitality they've come to know and love about Southwest,” Watterson said.

Chief Executive Officer Gary Kelly said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” Sunday that despite 400 of the airline’s fleet being grounded during the lockdown, it has still taken extreme preventative measures to keep passengers safe from the virus.

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“We’re doing everything possible to encourage people to come back and fly,” he said. “We’re cleaning airplanes, we’re requiring masks of our employees and our customers, we’re using very deep cleaning overnight, we’re using electrostatic misters which will kill the virus on surfaces for up to 30 days.”

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AALAMERICAN AIRLINES GROUP INC.14.84+0.01+0.10%
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UALUNITED AIRLINES HLDG.45.48+0.52+1.15%

“We’re exercising social distancing on board the aircraft,” Kelly added. “We won’t be booking airplanes full so that people can spread out. So, absolutely we’re doing everything we can to make it as safe as humanly possible.”

Southwest isn’t alone in rolling out robust hygiene policies. American, Delta, JetBlue, United and have all announced that passengers will have to wear face covers on flights.

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