Southwest Airlines to cut capacity at least 20%

The LCC reports falling load factors nearing 50% as a result of COVID-19-fueled demand decline.

Southwest Airlines CFO Tammy Romo (pictured) said the Dallas-based LCC has experienced several days of negative net bookings and will be making further capacity cuts going forward to cope with the severe demand drop related to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

In a March 16 regulatory filing, Romo reported “dramatic declines in passenger bookings in March and the second quarter 2020, as well as an unprecedented increase in close-in trip cancellations.”

She said trip cancellations are outpacing new passenger bookings and the airline’s month-to-date load factor through March 15 was approximately 67%, “with recent days trending toward 50%.”

“As the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic grows, and based on current booking and cancellation trends, we expect revenue trends for the remainder of March and second quarter 2020 to deteriorate further,” Romo said.

She said Southwest will soon reduce its published flight schedules, lowering available seat miles (ASMs) by at least 20% from April 14 through June 5. She noted that the capacity cuts are in addition to steep cuts the company has already made to deal with Boeing 737 MAX groundings; Southwest is the largest MAX customer.

“The company continues to evaluate further flight schedule reductions,” Romo said.

Photo credit: Southwest Airlines