With origins as a business carrier in Texas, Southwest Airlines will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2021. Along the way, the company has built its network and a loyal customer base, while always seemingly marching to the beat of their own drum. To learn more about Southwest, and specifically its dedicated business travel team, DTJ caught up with Dave Harvey, Vice President of Southwest Business during the GovTravels Symposium.
A Southwest employee since 1999, Dave worked his way through Southwest's business development, network planning, commercial planning & performance, corporate strategy, and technology departments before taking on his current role. In this position, Dave is responsible for leading Southwest's sales team, which manages relationships, sales programs, services, and B2B channels for corporations, travel management companies, and distributors.
DTJ: Dave, thanks for chatting with us today. First things first, what exactly is Southwest Business?
DAVE HARVEY: Southwest Business encompasses the teams responsible for developing, growing, and retaining business travel on Southwest Airlines. We've had a corporate travel team through the years, but they never exceeded more than 20 people until we started making major investments in Southwest Business. Over the last two years, we've devoted the resources to grow Southwest Business into what it is today. We now have more than 150 people dedicated to providing the absolute best hospitality to our business travelers, corporate travel decision-makers, government, and higher education travel managers, and organizations that book travel on Southwest.
DTJ: Can you expand on some of the changes your customers and travelers will see or are already seeing with the evolution of Southwest Business?
DAVE HARVEY: Southwest has always done things differently. As one of our executives likes to say, when others zig, we zag. Since beginning service in 1971, we've maintained our own booking experience so that we can control the entire customer journey from start to finish. We even had to become innovative in the corporate travel space, launching things like our first loyalty program in the late 1980s to launching our own corporate-travel booking platform, SWABIZ. SWABIZ allowed travel managers to easily book travel on Southwest. But, with everything, technology evolved and we saw an opportunity to reach more business travelers. That's why we've been hyper-focused the last few years on better...