Dallas-based Southwest Airlines reported the biggest loss in company history Thursday, a third-quarter loss of $1.16 billion due to COVID related travel problems.
Revenue dropped an estimated 68% for Southwest, compared with a year earlier, before the global pandemic.
“We are encouraged by modest improvements in leisure passenger traffic trends since the slowdown in demand experienced in July,” CEO Gary Kelly said in an earnings release reported by CNBC. “However, until we have widely-available vaccines and achieve herd immunity, we expect passenger traffic and booking trends to remain fragile.”
A few airlines, including Southwest, blocked most middle passenger seats to reassure travelers who are nervous about packed planes and a possible spread of the coronavirus.
Southwest said Thursday it was dropping that policy because of "science-based findings from trusted medical and aviation organizations” about how COVID-19 is spread. Airline groups and aircraft manufacturers, relying in part on research by the military, say that strong cabin air flow and high-efficiency filters make planes safer than other indoor settings.
Southwest shares have declined 26% since the beginning of the year, while the Standard & Poor's 500 index has risen slightly more than 6%. The stock has dropped 25% in the last 12 months.