Southwest is gambling on someone else's website. The low-cost king, which helps keep costs low by strictly limiting how and where it distributes seats, is for the first time selling travel packages on a website it doesn't control. It signed a deal with lasvegas.com to sell packages for air fares and hotel rooms in the betting mecca.
Southwest has long refused to offer flights or packages through major sites such as Orbitz, Travelocity or Expedia because the Dallas-based airline wants to maintain control and costs. But the busiest carrier at the gaming city's McCarran International Airport, with about 200 flights a day, Southwest is locked in battle with America West, now US Airways, and the new US Airways is growing there. Orlando-based Southwest Airlines Vacations, operated by Milwaukee-based Mark Travel, has been Southwest's only package outlet for more than 15 years.
Other low-fare carriers generally follow Southwest's distribution philosophy, and one Southwest acolyte, jetBlue, last year went so far as to pull out of giant GDS Sabre altogether. However, AirTran, another graduate of the Southwest school of keeping costs down, went rebel this week and signed a deal with Sabre, the former American Airlines affiliate that owns Travelocity.