It looks like Southwest Airlines is preparing to enter into partnerships with other airlines. That could mean selling tickets that include connections on other airlines as well as transferring bags. It might even mean codeshares, and frequent flyer earning and redemption as well.
The role is specifically to:
Manage the development, communication, and execution of Southwest’s entry into airline partnerships and develop and maintain relationships with potential partner carriers so that Southwest can successfully launch and build strong partnerships.
Southwest Airlines has mostly ‘gone it alone’ rather than partnering up with other carriers, but this move would hardly be a first for the Dallas-based carrier. For instance,
They codeshared with American Trans Air starting back in 2004 (Southwest acquired much of its Chicago Midway presence from ATA).
They announced a codeshare with Canada’s WestJet in 2008 but it was never implemented.
They also had an agreement with Mexico’s Volaris where they sold Volaris tickets on the Southwest Airlines website and offered interline bag checking.
The job’s responsibilities specifically include “meet[ing] monthly with Southwest Airlines Pilots Association (SWAPA) for an in-depth discussion on all areas of Southwest’s Airline Partnership work.” Coming to an agreement with the airline’s pilots will be crucial. Pilots will see any partnership as outsourcing flying that ‘belongs to them’ and the airline knows it will need to sell its pilots on the idea that any partnership will allow them to grow the flying done by their airline.
Personally I’d love more ways to redeem Rapid Rewards points. AirTran, which was eventually acquired by Southwest, used to address its lack of partnerships by allowing members to redeem twice the points for a ticket on another carrier. Right now if you want to use Southwest points to fly to Alaska you cannot do it, and you cannot use your Rapid Rewards points to fly to Paris either.
It will presumably take some time for this new role to build out partnerships, and from the time one is announced to when it’s actually implemented could take a year as well. So we won’t likely be benefiting from new Southwest airline partnerships right away. But this job listing suggests that the idea could be a corporate priority.