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Southwest CEO Says Near Future Looks Grim

Considering he oversees one of the most successful airlines in the country, I’m always interested in Southwest CEO Gary Kelly’s take on the current state of airline affairs. Kelly spoke to a conference today, and had some interesting things to say about his airline, the industry, and the future (hat tip to the Airline Biz blog):

  • On Southwest’s June numbers: “The first part of June doesn’t show any improvement at all … I’m not expecting things to improve based on what I’m seeing right now.”
  • Beyond June: “The green shoots – they’re pale green, if they’re green. I think it’s crazy to bet on anything improving soon.”
  • On whether or not Southwest’s model, notably its free-checked-bags policy, will endure the recession: “”We think that is working. It’s a little soon to give any real empirical evidence” but the airline would change course “if it’s the right thing to do for Southwest and its customers.”

If you’re a fan of Southwest, that last bit probably gave you minor shock, especially considering the airline’s recent shift in marketing language. However, I’ll go on record saying I don’t think Southwest will add bag fees any time soon. That perk is now too closely tied to the brand, and adding the fee would trigger some severe customer backlash.

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