Southwest introduces company referral program: Travel Weekly

Southwest Airlines is turning to flyers to help grow its corporate travel program.

Under its Refer a Company initiative launched Monday, Rapid Rewards members will earn 25,000 points for referring a company to the airline that ends up booking through one of Southwest’s three business travel platforms: the Swabiz booking tool, Southwest’s API/direct connect technology, or a GDS.

Each Rapid Reward members can earn the 25,000 point bonus for up to five referrals. The points also count toward Southwest Companion Pass qualification, which allows flyers to tap one companion to fly with them for free for the remainder of year in which they qualify as well as the following year. 

Dave Harvey, vice president of Southwest Business, said that the Refer a Company program is primarily geared toward small and midsize businesses that are not a part of a managed corporate travel program. The carrier has beefed up its corporate travel offerings during the pandemic, including going live with nearly full content in Travelport, Amadeus and Sabre. 

Still, in a mid-September regulatory filing, Southwest projected that managed booking revenues in the quarter that ended Sept. 30 would be down 26% to 28% compared with the 2019 September quarter. That estimate represented a downward revision from the company’s previous estimate that corporate revenue would be off 17% to 21% from the third quarter of 2019. 

Nevertheless, recent surveys about the readiness of corporations to resume or enhance business travel has Harvey saying he is optimistic. He referenced an Oct. 6 Global Business Travel Association survey in which 69% of corporate respondents that still have a suspension in place for all or most domestic trips said they plan to resume travel in the next three months. 

“Now is a beautiful time for people thinking about their 2023 budgets — how much travel they expect,” Harvey said. “They are rethinking their suppliers. Now is the perfect time to use this as sort of magnet.”

To participate in Refer a Company, Rapid Reward members must provide contact information for a company’s travel decision-maker. Reward points will be earned once the first person from that company books a trip through one of Southwest’s corporate booking platforms and completes the flight. 

Harvey explained that companies don’t have to sign a contract or make a long-term commitment to participate in a Southwest Business program. For example, last fall the carrier launched a business version of the Rapid Rewards program in which companies can bank points for employee travel and then redeem those points for free employee flights. 

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