DALLAS, April 17 (UPI) -- Southwest Airlines said it lost $91 million in the first quarter of 2009, notching its third consecutive quarter in the red.
Chief Economic Officer Gary Kelly called the recent period the "toughest revenue environment in our history," USA Today reported Friday.
The quarterly loss was notably different from the previous two quarters, when escalating fuel prices hammered the industry. In the recent quarter, the recession has pulled the rug out from under airlines with a sharp drop off in business travel.
Southwest said the first quarter results had forced it to administer a hiring freeze. The company will also initiate a job buyout program to cut costs, the newspaper said.
Some airlines have reported business travel picking up in the past few weeks. Kelly said cautiously, "I don't have any empirical evidence that (demand) is going to be worse."
"But I don't think it's going to be up 6 percent either," he said.