UPDATE: Southwest CEO Gary Kelly says the airline is "years away" from replacing its existing reservations system.
Kelly revealed that scenario in a Wall Street Journal interview today.
His statement puts in context Southwest's renewed agreement for reservations services from Sabre.
The original story follows:
Southwest Airlines renewed for several years its contract to have Sabre provide some of the airline's reservations system services.
In late 2010, the airline announced it was considering Amadeus or Sabre to replace its existing SAAS reservation system, which traces its roots decades ago to Braniff. Southwest currently refers to SAAS as a "Sabre product."
But, Southwest delayed a decision about a new reservations system, citing the priority of dealing with its AirTran integration first.
Sabre currently provides some passenger and operations services for the Southwest system for its domestic network, one of the largest in the US.
And, officials said the renewed Sabre-Southwest agreement supports the AirTran integration, enabling the merged airline to have "the flexibility to executive its strategy."
“Delivering excellent customer service is a hallmark of Southwest, so it’s important to us that our customers have a seamless shopping, booking and travel experience during our acquisition of AirTran,” said Bob Young, chief technology officer for Southwest. “We look forward to continuing our work with Sabre to have the technology in place to achieve our ongoing customer service objectives.”
Sabre has been a long-time technology partner for Southwest.
"The announcement is an extension of the existing work Sabre has been doing for SWA for 20 plus-years," says Southwest spokesperson Brandy King. "Their contract expired and we renewed it because regardless of any new decisions on RSR [reservations], we will be using SAAS for years."
And, Southwest spokesperson Beth Harbin added: "AirTran has a separate res system, which is Navitaire. AirTran reservations will eventually be integrated into the Southwest system. That will take place over time. In the meantime, we must continue to have a robust system at Southwest that can handle additional demand, as needed."
Henry Harteveldt, airline and travel industry analyst for Atmosphere Research Group, says it remains unclear whether Southwest will remain on Sabre or transition to another system eventually.
"Sabre can handle the international and code-share flying that I expect will play increasingly important roles for the 'new' Southwest," Harteveldt says. "Sabre can also handle some of Southwest's ancillary product options, such as early boarding. However, I'm not entirely convinced that this is necessarily the long-term PSS solution for the airline."