At long last, Southwest is now part of Google Flights

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At last, there’s more to “luv” with Google Flights: Southwest Airlines is now part of the search engine.

While Google’s flight search engine is one of the most powerful tools to shop for airfare, historically, it has been hampered by a lack of Southwest flights. This prevented users from having complete view of airfares to their desired destination.

But don’t blame Google for that. The Dallas-based carrier has long held out on displaying or selling fares through online travel agencies and search aggregators. (One exception has been Southwest’s relationship with Chase, allowing select credit cardholders to book flights through the Chase Travel portal.)

However, Southwest is now making a major digital pivot with far-reaching implications across the airline industry. As of May 22, the airline’s fares display on Google Flights search results, just like all the other major U.S. carriers.

Southwest said in a statement that it is “piloting” a partnership with Google, making it “possible for Google Flights users to compare different fare options and click directly into Southwest.com to book their selected itinerary.”

Displaying results on Google Flights is yet another evolution for an airline that has built loyalty for decades in part by marching to the beat of its drum. Last month, Southwest CEO Bob Jordan said the carrier is “very seriously studying” potential alternatives to its long-standing open seat policy. The airline also plans to finally introduce red-eye flights in the coming years.

What Southwest on Google Flights means for travelers

In practice, travelers can now easily compare flight pricing across carriers in one glance. That’s a boon for deal seekers everywhere, said Kyle Potter, executive editor at deals site Thrifty Traveler.

“I really think this is seismic for Southwest, for Google Flights and for travelers nationwide,” he said. Southwest didn’t list its fares for sale through Google or almost any other site by design: It didn’t want to put loyalty in the hands of an intermediary.

Previously, the only option to book Southwest flights was directly on the airline’s website or app. Therefore, the biggest impact will be on travelers who didn’t usually consider the carrier.

“This gives Southwest much more visibility with those who are just starting their search for flights and didn’t realize they needed to check Southwest.com separately,” added Potter.

Meanwhile, Southwest loyalists can leverage a powerful Google Flights price-tracking tool. With no change or cancellation fees, fliers can toggle the “track prices” button and be alerted by email if fares drop, even after they’ve booked. By canceling and rebooking their Southwest flight, shoppers can receive a fare credit for the cheaper itinerary.

But don’t expect the Google Flights news to signal future plans: Southwest says it doesn’t intend to go all in on third-party travel websites. “Google Flights is not a booking engine and this isn’t a move into or toward online travel agencies,” a carrier spokesperson conveyed.

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