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Southwest Airlines takes $1.2B loss; Alaska to use greener jet fuel

A Southwest Airlines 737 Max 8 airliner is parked at Gate 40 at St. Louis-Lambert International Airport in St. Louis, Mo., on March 13, 2019. File Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/236ae4b1ff004aaa41f81540935bca94/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
A Southwest Airlines 737 Max 8 airliner is parked at Gate 40 at St. Louis-Lambert International Airport in St. Louis, Mo., on March 13, 2019. File Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo

Oct. 22 (UPI) -- Southwest Airlines reported Thursday that its revenue fell by almost 70% between July and October due to hardship the COVID-19 pandemic has wrought on the air travel industry.

Southwest reported the figure in its third-quarter report, in which the carrier said it earned $18 billion in operating revenue but saw a net loss of $1.2 billion. The carrier ended the quarter with $15.6 billion with cash on hand.

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The budget airline said it did see an uptick in leisure passenger demand and bookings.

"The pandemic persists along with the negative effects on air travel demand, resulting in our third-quarter net loss," Southwest CEO Gary C. Kelly said in a statement. "We are encouraged by modest improvements in leisure passenger traffic trends since the slowdown in demand experienced in July."

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Kelly said the absence of a vaccine or "herd immunity" means Southwest and the airline industry will continue to struggle with passengers returning to flight in the near future.

"In response, we will continue to monitor demand and prudently adjust our available seat miles, while pursuing further revenue and cost opportunities," Kelly added. "I am grateful to our people for maintaining a safe and reliable operation with industry-leading customer service, which generated the best net promoter score in our history in the third quarter."

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Southwest has made cost-cutting measures, saying it lowered its daily cash burn figure last month to $12 million per day, down from $23 million per day in the second quarter.

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"We estimate operating revenues will need to recover to an estimated 60% to 70% of 2019 levels, which is roughly double our third quarter 2020 levels," Kelly said.

The carrier said its new partnership with Microsoft is the first of its kind in the United States, and is a model for all companies that are committed to reducing the environmental impact of business air travel. File Photo by John G. Mabanglo/EPA

Another domestic carrier, Alaska Airlines, said Thursday it's reached an agreement with Microsoft that will have the tech giant provide an alternative, lower carbon emitting fuel for some flights.

The new "sustainable aviation fuel," which will be loaded onto Alaska Airlines flights at Los Angeles International Airport by SkyNRG, is a blend of traditional jet fuel and waste oil from cooking and agriculture products.

"[The fuel] enables us to fly cleaner and reduce our impact on the environment," Alaska Airlines CEO Brad Tilden said in a statement.

"However, we cannot do this alone -- we must work together with other industries and business leaders like Microsoft and SkyNRG, among others who are thinking big, to achieve our goals."

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The software company said the more efficient fuel will help lower carbon emissions from Alaska's busy business routes between its hub in Seattle and Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area, which carry many Microsoft employees.

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