Nov 24, 2020 - Economy

Southwest CEO: "You should fly"

The official guidance of the CDC says that "postponing travel and staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others this year."

  • Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly, however, took the opposing position when he was interviewed by "Axios on HBO." "You should fly," he told me, adding that "we need to have as much commerce and business and movement as is safe to do."

What they're saying: "The problem is not being on the airplane," said Kelly — although the science on that is not settled. "The problem is what you do off the airplane, quite frankly."

  • "The challenge is when the families get together, and they're not wearing their mask and they're having dinner and drinks and whatnot. Those are all very high risk."

Between the lines: Kelly conceded that he was in the business of bringing families together to have dinner and drinks. He advocated for "a layered approach" to preventing the spread of COVID-19, but pushed back against restrictions on the layer he's responsible for, which is air travel.

  • "What we want to do is provide the opportunity for people to travel as they choose," he said, "but to make sure that it is as safe as we can possibly make it."

By the numbers: Kelly said that passenger numbers are continuing to increase, despite the current wave of coronavirus cases and deaths.

  • "The demand for travel is stronger in November and December than it has been even over the last couple of months," he said. "But we're still going to be down 60% or 65%. So that's better than being down 70%, but a long way away from success."
  • "Without the holiday demand in November and December," he added, "I'm worried about January."
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