Southwest said in a regulatory filing that October revenue is down about 65% from a year ago, and that November and December revenue will be off 60% to 65%. It is unclear whether the weakening booking trends is directly related to the surge in virus cases. Other industry officials left little doubt, however.
“Demand is softening, and in the wake of the news, it’s probably not hard to figure out why,” said Nicholas Calio, president of the trade group Airlines for America.
Air travel remains deeply depressed — in the U.S., it’s down about 65% from a year ago. Although that is improvement over April’s 95% decline, Calio told reporters that U.S. airlines are still losing about $180 million a day.
Airlines have added more flights for Thanksgiving, but health officials are warning against big gatherings over the holiday. This week, New York limited private gatherings to 10 people, even for outdoor events.
In the early days of the pandemic, several airlines tried to reassure frightened travelers by blocking some seats to create more space between passengers. As flights have become more crowded in recent months, airlines are losing money by leaving seats empty.
JetBlue is the latest U.S. carrier to abandon seating limits. Southwest will stop blocking middle seats on Dec. 1. The last holdouts — Delta Air Lines and Alaska Airlines — plan to eliminate their seating limits early next year.