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Southwest CEO: 2 broad groups of travelers are very different

In a new interview with Yahoo Finance's Adam Shapiro, Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly says leisure travel is strong while business travel has yet to bounce back from the pandemic.

Video Transcript

ANDY SERWER: As we look at the industry going forward, you have served as chairman of the board of directors of Airlines for America. What does the industry face next year and the year after as it recovers from the pandemic? Are there hurdles in the way that we're not paying attention to now, but that are coming at us?

GARY KELLY: Well, I think if you just think about broader industry issues, traffic demand obviously collapsed in 2020. It has recovered nicely in some ways, in other ways, not so much. Two broad groups of travelers, business travelers and leisure travelers. Leisure travel is very strong, and business travel is still quite weak. So I think the industry will be looking very carefully at that recovery over the next one to five to who knows how many years.

Things have changed a lot, as we all know, in this pandemic environment. But I think even longer term than that, and for the Trade Association, in particular, what we're all really focused on is climate change, with net zero carbon emission goals no later than 2050 as an industry. So, a lot of long range challenges that we'll need to make steady progress on and see a lot of innovation, quite frankly. And then just the immediate task of getting past this pandemic will continue to be another focus here for the near term.