Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly says passenger numbers will have to triple by the end of the year in order for the carrier to avoid its first-ever involuntary job cuts.
Layoffs and furloughs are the last resort for Kelly, but he told employees Monday the airline needs a dramatic jump in passenger demand or layoffs could be necessary.
"Although furloughs and layoffs remain our very last resort, we can’t rule them out as a possibility obviously in this very bad environment," Kelly said in a message to employees. "We need a significant recovery by the end of this year — and that’s roughly triple the number of passengers from where we are today."
Kelly added that the "recent rise in COVID cases and increasing regional restrictions on businesses and states requiring quarantine aren’t positive developments for our business, and we are concerned about the impact on already weak travel demand."
Employees are facing a Wednesday deadline to decide whether participate in a voluntary incentive program to leave the airline.
According to labor rules, airlines must give employees 60 days’ notice of potential furloughs. Not everyone who receives a notification will be let go, according to reports.