Southwest Airways CEO Gary Kelly says the Dallas-based provider is in “intensive care” and what it’ll appear to be a 12 months from now will depend on whether or not COVID-19 continues to be a pandemic, the state of the financial system and what number of seats opponents select to fly.“We’ll compete hard for customers, understanding it will be a brutal, low-fare environment as there are far more airline seats, and there will be for some time, than there are customers,” Kelly mentioned in a weekly replace to staff posted to YouTube.Southwest Airways has been extra aggressive than different airways by means of the pandemic, pulling again fewer flights, regardless that it’s flying half as many flights because it deliberate earlier than the pandemic. However this week the provider additionally mentioned it could fly a schedule for November and December that matches what it flew final 12 months by way of flights and seats.Airline leaders try to determine how briskly they’ll be capable of emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic. At its worst in early April, airport passenger visitors was down greater than 94% from the 12 months earlier than. Passengers are coming again slowly, and carriers have decreased the variety of flights as effectively.A lot of the rebound will depend on how aggressive competing airways should be when visitors does return, mentioned David Banmiller, an aviation guide and former CEO of Pan Am and Aloha Airways. Airways might be tempted to replenish seats to justify large overhead prices.“Fares will be all over the place,” Banmiller mentioned. “Do you come out with low prices to stimulate traffic? And what’s the demand?”Kelly informed staff it could take two to 3 years for airline visitors to rebound to earlier ranges, particularly on worldwide flights.Ticket pricing may additionally rely upon how lengthy airways are pressured to fly at restricted capability as a result of prospects aren’t snug crowding into seats subsequent to strangers. Southwest is barely promoting tickets to fill planes to two-thirds capability and can accomplish that by means of July, Kelly mentioned.On Thursday, Southwest Airways chief industrial officer Andrew Watterson informed The Dallas Morning Information that the airline sees a possibility to achieve on its opponents popping out of the downturn, the identical means it has accomplished after previous recessions.However the way forward for airways rely upon when prospects really feel snug flying once more, and that will depend on the state of the COVID-19 disaster and the financial system.“Our low-cost philosophy, strategy and structure will serve us very well,” Kelly mentioned. “We’ll continue to offer low fares with no change fees, no bag fees and a safe environment when our customers are ready to fly.”Southwest earned its reputation as a low-cost carrier partly because it doesn’t offer premium section seating and partially because it doesn’t charge bag fees. But other airlines have become price-competitive and even cheaper in many instances, at least for economy-class tickets.Southwest is looking at major changes, though, including a need to trim down its workforce as payroll grants and loans from the federal government are set to run out at the end of September. The company has urged employees to take voluntary leave, and Kelly has warned that furloughs may be required if passenger traffic doesn’t turn around quickly this summer.AIrlines, such as Fort Worth-based American and United, have outlined plans to employees to reduce workforces. American said this week that it would cut about 5,000 jobs from its management and support staff.American Airlines CEO Doug Parker said the company will err on the side of being smaller instead of taking a risk on being larger coming out of the pandemic.Southwest has told unions that it needs to think of ways to trim expenses, which organized labor groups interpreted as a demand for contract concessions.Southwest, which flies mostly domestic routes with a handful of Caribbean destinations, could recover faster if traffic bounces back more quickly in the United States.One way to save money will be to fly its grounded Boeing 737 Max jets, which are still being evaluated by the Federal Aviation Administration and haven’t been approved to fly yet. The planes are about 25% more fuel-efficient than older models.“It’s the most cost-effective plane in terms of fuel and maintenance and provides a great customer experience,” Kelly mentioned.