Southwest Airlines posted a $68 million profit for the fourth quarter after many people traveled during the holidays, helping the airline reach this profitable state. However, the company does state that, because of the Omicron variant and how people are currently traveling, they don’t believe they will experience a profitable first quarter in 2022. Likely, the first three months of the year will be low in travel, which many airlines are expecting.
While Southwest isn’t the only airline company to post a profit, many other large airlines in the United States haven’t had as good of a fourth-quarter as Southwest. Southwest was able to post this profit because of the surge in holiday traffic, which has gone up drastically when compared to how people traveled in 2020. However, the amount of people traveling is still below what was normal during the holiday season before the pandemic ever began.
Southwest also did well in the fourth quarter because it seems as if they weren’t as drastically affected by workers calling out of work because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Other airlines, such as American Airlines, greatly suffered at the end of December because so much of their staff contracted the virus and had to call out. Reports show that Southwest, while they did have workers who became infected, didn’t have to cancel or delay as many flights as other airlines. This helped them post a profit at the end of the quarter.
However, now the company does plan to lose money in the first three months of the new year. The ongoing spread of the highly contagious Omicron variant, as well as bad winter weather, are mainly to blame for this negative outlook. While the Omicron variant is still spreading around the United States, there are some positive signs that the peak of this most recent outbreak surge is behind us, as cases have started to go down. Southwest, therefore, feels positive that this will only help Americans decide to travel again soon.
JetBlue and Alaska Airlines are two other airlines that are positive that, while bookings may falter in the first few months and money may be lost, traveling will pick up again in the early spring — and especially around summertime. Other airlines, most notably American Airlines and Delta, are still struggling because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The airline industry as a whole is still struggling to recover, though the ongoing, fluid, pandemic makes this rather hard. Every time airlines feel that they have recovery in their sight, a new variant seems to come around to make this difficult. First, it was the Delta variant. Now, it’s the Omicron variant, which has greatly impacted how airlines are able to conduct business.
If the Omicron variant is beginning to decline and will eventually stop infecting people in mass waves, then this will greatly help airlines continue on their quest to recovery. However, there are still other issues airline companies need to learn to deal with. Even if the Omicron variant slows down in its spread, airlines might not meet pre-pandemic levels of travelers until much later in the year.