Southwest Announces 8% April Load Factor But Recovery Continues

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Southwest Airlines today released an investor update stating that, in April, it measured a load factor of just 8%. However, data from the TSA and FlightRadar24.com seems to indicate that the industry’s recovery is continuing, albeit at a sluggish rate.

Southwest Airlines, April Load Factor, Industry Recovery
Southwest saw its load factor drop by 92% in April. Photo: Southwest Airlines

It seems that April was, for most concerned, the worst month for aviation since the global pandemic began. Indeed, both London Heathrow and Frankfurt Airport, two of the world’s busiest airports, saw passenger traffic fall by a staggering 97%.

It looks as though Southwest Airlines got off slightly lighter than the European airports, though. The American low-cost carrier clocked a marginally smaller drop in passengers of 92%.

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What’s new?

Southwest Airlines today issued an investor update through its investor relations portal. In this update, the low-cost giant spoke about what it had noticed in April 2020, and what it expects to see by the end of May.

Southwest Airlines, April Load Factor, Industry Recovery
The airline has continued to operate flights, but its capacity has dropped substantially. Photo: Southwest Airlines

According to Southwest, for April, the airline’s revenue decreased by 90-95% compared to the previous year. The airline had reduced its available seat kilometers by 58%. However, the load factor measured was about 8% of that experienced last year.

In April and most of March, Southwest received net-negative bookings with cancellations higher than new bookings. However, the airline sees things starting to improve this month. As opposed to the 90-95% drop in revenue experienced in April, the carrier is only expecting an 85-90% drop this month.

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Recovery continues

According to the latest data from both the TSA and FlightRadar24.com, the aviation industry is continuing to show signs of recovery. Although, for the time being, the recovery remains very slow, and nothing like the sudden sharp decline recorded in the second half of March.

Southwest Airlines, April Load Factor, Industry Recovery
The TSA has seen passenger numbers at their highest in almost two months. Graph: Simple Flying | Data: TSA

Just under two weeks ago, on May 8th we reported that the 190,863 passengers recorded by the TSA was a high last seen on March 27th. Since then, the number of passengers has continued to climb, reaching 253,807 on Sunday (May 17th).

This represents a rise of over 60,000 in just ten days. However, it gets even more impressive when you consider the lowest figure. On April 14th, just 87,534 passengers were noted, meaning the figure has increased by 190% since its lowest point.

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The number of flights tracked by FlightRadar24.com has also reached another high since we last ran the numbers. On Friday (May 15th), 36,851 commercial flights were monitored by the service in one day.

Southwest Airlines, April Load Factor, Industry Recovery
The number of commercial flights also reached a new high. Graph: Simple Flying | Data: FlightRadar24.com

This represented the highest number of flights seen since April 1st. However, the increase in the number of commercial flights isn’t quite as impressive as the TSA’s figures. Indeed, rather than the 30% increase tracked by the TSA, the maximum rise followed by FR24 sits as just 5.6%.

Do you think the industry’s recovery will continue at the current slow pace or pick up speed? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

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