How Southwest Airlines plans to soothe business customers soured by holiday meltdown

Southwest Airlines continues its push to win back customers alarmed by the epic vacation avalanche that has stranded millions of travelers across the country.

This time, CEO Bob Jordan’s apology went to a group that has been trying to woo all over the pandemic — business travelers.

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During Monday’s town hall session, Jordan discussed the holiday fiasco with several other Southwest executives and described what the company is doing to ensure it doesn’t happen again. He said none of the company’s priorities are “revolutionary,” but instead aim to improve the flying experience.

“We’re still getting our network back from pre-pandemic,” Jordan said. “It involves adding features that we know you and your customers want. Things like onboard power outlets, big boxes, and add-ons in the app.”

Bigger boxes mean more places for bags on the plane, and fewer carry-ons Gate-checked bags, less time on the ground and more time in the air, said Ryan Green, Southwest executive vice president and chief commercial officer.

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Green said the company will add ports to all of its new planes — a must for business travelers — and will move to USB-A and USB-C ports on its Boeing 737 Max planes.

“Quite frankly, we haven’t had the product over the last two years that we want or need, and so we’re making the investment to upgrade the hardware,” Green said. “We own about half of the current fleet here. We’ll finish the rest of the current fleet between now and summer.”

Months before the holiday meltdown, Southwest launched a referral program for small and medium-sized businesses, giving out 25,000 rewards points to each company for directing other businesses to its managed travel system. The carrier has used the software as a way to attract a hard-to-reach audience, just as it was riding through the economic downturn of the pandemic.

In 2021, Southwest signed a distribution deal with Southlake-based Saber Corp where thousands of business travel planners can see Southwest routes pop up on their screens when booking flights for employees instead of having to compare with

Southwest, America is canceling or postponing thousands of flights through Tuesday noon

In terms of making things right with holiday travelers, Green said the company had most bags back for customers within a week and had handled about 93% of reimbursement requests from travelers who had to book hotel rooms, rent cars or buy tickets on competing airlines.