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Southwest is Tearing Up Its Paper Tickets

TravelPulse logo TravelPulse 3/20/2017 Rich Thomaselli

© Flickr Southwest Airlines has decided to eliminate paper tickets, as well as its cute (but antiquated) pneumatic tube method of communicating on the tarmac.

It’s all part of the Dallas-based carrier's overall $800 million upgrade, modernizing its reservations system and other operations, according to Bloomberg News.

“We’re looking for minutes,” Chief Operating Officer Mike Van de Ven told Bloomberg. “How do I save a minute here, a minute there? In 2017, we are more deliberate in our continuous improvement efforts.”

Southwest’s ‘turn time’—how quickly it can empty a plane after it lands, clean it, refuel it and get it filled with passengers again to take off—has risen over the years to about 40 minutes from 20 minutes.

The new reservation system means Southwest will be able to bring those minutes down again.

In addition, the airline will now be able to accept foreign currency and deal with price changes and schedules—along with re-scheduling after storms and delays. Ramp workers will be armed with tablets with real-time information that also can help speed these process.

Losing the paper tickets isn't ultimately such a big deal—as many airlines have already done so—but the tubes, well, that’s another story.

Part of Southwest’s charm when it first came on the scene 45 years ago was to have team members on the tarmac send notes to each other in canisters via the pneumatic tube. (Think: a bank drive-thru with the tubes and vacuums that suck up your checks, whisking them inside to the teller.)

The tubes would convey notes on the ground from worker to worker about any number of issues, including lost luggage and calculating a plane’s weight.

Said workers will now be armed with digital communication devices, and the tubes will be dismantled.

Southwest Airlines is flying into the 21st century.

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