Southwest Airlines flights will appear in Google Flights results

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Southwest Airlines fares are now appearing on Google after long being excluded from the search engine’s search results.

The Dallas-based carrier had previously omitted its fares from searches on Google Flights and from online flight aggregators like Expedia.com, preferring for customers to find tickets mostly through its own website. As of Wednesday, Southwest’s fares were for the first time shown on Google Flights alongside those from other airlines on Google Flights.

Southwest’s move to partner with Google makes it easier for travelers to compare their options on a single dashboard. Displaying its airfares to consumers who didn’t in the past visit Southwest’s website could also bring in new customers for the airline. Customers must still book flights directly through Southwest. 

A Southwest spokesperson said the move, which the carrier said it’s testing, broadens its reach with consumers while allowing the company to retain control of the booking process. 

“We’re extending the reach of Southwest.com by giving users of Google Flights enhanced visibility into our available flights, fares and the benefits of our products and services,” the spokesperson said in a statement to CBS MoneyWatch. “In our initial piloting of this partnership, we’ve made it possible for Google Flights users to compare our different fare options and click directly into Southwest.com to book their selected itinerary.”

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The change is one of several the airline has said it’s exploring to improve the customer experience. On a call with Wall Street analytst last month, Southwest CEO Bob Jordan said the airline is also considering overhauling its signature open seating policy and assigning customer seats as most other airlines do. In the coming years, it also plans to start scheduling red-eye flights for the first time.

Travel site “The Points Guy” expects Southwest’s initiative with Google to benefit travelers, noting that consumers can also use Google Flights’ fare-tracking tools to monitor the airline’s prices and book flights when prices are lowest. 

Southwest’s strategic initiatives comes as the airline looks to boost its results and temper the impact of problems with Boeing 737 Max 8 planes. The airline said in April it was suspending service at four U.S. airports, in part because of delivery delays of new Max 8 aircraft. The delays mean slower growth for the airline, which is looking for ways to cut costs after it reported a first-quarter loss of $231 million.

Megan Cerullo

Megan Cerullo is a New York-based reporter for CBS MoneyWatch covering small business, workplace, health care, consumer spending and personal finance topics. She regularly appears on CBS News 24/7 to discuss her reporting.

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