Southwest CEO urges holiday travel despite CDC warnings

Southwest CEO urges holiday travel despite CDC warnings

Does he have his head in the clouds?

The CEO Of Southwest Airlines is encouraging air travel this holiday season despite health officials warning against flying during the coronavirus pandemic. His advice comes after millions of people flocked to US airports for Thanksgiving amid rising COVID-19 cases.

“You should fly,” said SW boss Gary Kelly in a recent interview with “Axios on HBO.” He added that “the problem is not being on the airplane” but rather “what you do off the airplane” — as though his customers are all planning on traveling to far off places just to quarantine alone.

“The challenge is when the families get together, and they’re not wearing their mask and they’re having dinner and drinks and whatnot,” Kelly said.

This goes against official Centers For Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, which state that “postponing travel and staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others this year.”

The CDC reports that “social distancing is difficult on crowded flights, and you may have to sit near others (within 6 feet),” which “may increase your risk for exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19.” Not only that but “air travel requires spending time in security lines and airport terminals, which can bring you in close contact with other people and frequently touched surfaces,” per the CDC.

Nonetheless while Kelly encouraged a “layered approach” to mitigating the spread of COVID-19, he downplayed the importance of airline restrictions.

“What we want to do is provide the opportunity for people to travel as they choose,” he said, adding that “we need to have as much commerce and business and movement as is safe to do.”

Kelly reported that passenger numbers were increasing despite the recent surge in US coronavirus cases — which currently total around 12.3 million, along with about 257,000 deaths.

“The demand for travel is stronger in November and December than it has been even over the last couple of months,” said Kelly, whose airline announced 12 new leisure routes this week.

Despite the expansion, the CEO said that Southwest is “still going to be down 60% or 65%.”

“Without the holiday demand in November and December,” he concluded, “I’m worried about January.”