Southwest's Incoming CEO Says Holiday Bookings Are at a 'Pre-Pandemic' Level — How the Airline Is Preparing
It's been turbulent skies for some airlines in the United States in recent weeks, plagued by mass cancellations and staffing woes, but Southwest's incoming CEO says it should be much smoother sailing for the upcoming holidays.
"Our bookings for the holidays are basically following the curve that they followed in 2019, which gives us a lot of assurance that there's demand there," incoming CEO Robert Jordan said in an interview with Yahoo Finance this week.
"While both Thanksgiving and Christmas are very popular times to fly, Thanksgiving tends to be "a little more compact," while Christmas is "more spread out over a longer period," he explained. Ultimately, he said he was hopeful the holidays look "very much like [they] did pre-pandemic in terms of the demand."
To prepare, Southwest has added more than 20% crew reserves and trimmed down the November and December schedules, Jordan said, to add even more cushion.
"Obviously, there's a lot of difference still. You've got the mask on in the airport. You've got the mask on inflight. And that changes a lot of the experience for us and for others," he said. "But no, I expect the demand to be very strong this holiday period."
Jordan's comments come weeks after Southwest was forced to cancel more than 2,000 flights, blaming weather and air traffic control issues. It also comes on the heels of thousands of American Airlines flight cancellations, which the airline blamed on staffing shortages and bad weather.
"We went from very little travel to travel just roaring back in the summer," he said. "And I'm not sure any airline was prepared for that. We've had staffing challenges. We've had some challenges with our network because it's just not the same network we had pre-pandemic…. We've gone to work to make all of that better. So we've added staffing, and we're staffing as quickly as possible."
"So it's all about reliability," Jordan added. "Our customers need to get to where they're going, and they need to depend on us, and they can depend on us."
Alison Fox is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure. When she's not in New York City, she likes to spend her time at the beach or exploring new destinations and hopes to visit every country in the world. Follow her adventures on Instagram.