Travelport Will Pay TMC Incentives, Count Segments On Southwest Bookings

Travelport will pay travel management companies per-segment incentives on Southwest Airlines bookings, according to a memo to travel agencies this week from the global distribution system operator. Travelport's memo confirmed Southwest's expanded content and participation will go live on May 4 in the Apollo and Worldspan GDSs, after which business-focused agencies approved by the carrier can book in those channels as they do other airlines.

Southwest last year surprised many when it deviated from its long-held direct-first distribution approach and agreed to participate for the first time in the Amadeus and Travelport GDSs in a traditional and comprehensive way. That participation would exceed the limited functionality the carrier extended through Sabre and Apollo.

While Southwest has stressed it doesn't plan to pay agency commissions or overrides in its pursuit of more corporate business, TMCs can secure booking revenue by way of Travelport-paid incentives.

"To the extent that you receive per-segment incentives under your current subscriber agreement, Travelport will pay segment incentives for Southwest segments generated on or after the launch date of Southwest's full participation, based on the current terms of your subscriber agreement," according to Travelport's memo this week.

Travelport also noted that Southwest transactions will count toward booking thresholds TMCs commit to GDSs. "Southwest segments generated on or after the launch date of Southwest's full participation will be included for all segment count purposes under your subscriber agreement," according to the memo to agencies.

As with other carriers committing comprehensive content to GDSs, the standard Content Continuity or Super Access fees Travelport levies on agencies apply for Southwest.

The airline has insisted it is only interested in working with business travel agencies as it expands GDS participation. Southwest has been cultivating relationships with such agencies, and TMCs must be approved by the carrier to book through GDSs.

Via its expanded GDS participation, Southwest is extending "industry-standard processes" to book, change, cancel and modify reservations, the carrier announced last year. It also is filing fares through ATPCO and settling through ARC.

Southwest said the vast majority, but not all, of its fare content will reside in GDS systems, with some limited exceptions.

Last week, Southwest Business VP Dave Harvey told The Beat sister publication BTN that the carrier did not have go-live dates for Galileo or Amadeus but was eyeing the fall or before year-end. Meanwhile, Southwest and Sabre earlier this year ended talks to expand the carrier's participation in the GDS.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article indicated that Southwest's participation in Amadeus and Travelport would include more content than in Sabre. While Southwest's deals with Amadeus and Travelport afford those global distribution system operators additional subscriber functionality, the airline will provide the same content to all three GDS providers.