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Southwest Cuts 40% of May Schedule Due to Coronavirus

By Lou Whiteman - Updated Mar 31, 2020 at 12:08PM

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The airline will maintain service to all of its U.S. markets.

Southwest Airlines (LUV 0.05%) said it would cut more than 40% of flights from its May schedule in response to a drop in travel demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The airline said it plans to fly about 2,000 flights daily between May 3 and June 5, about 1,700 fewer than its original projection. Southwest prior to the pandemic was already dealing with a crimped schedule due to the grounding of Boeing's 737 MAX.

Southwest said the cuts "proactively address significantly lower passenger demand, operational disruptions, and the ongoing suspension of our international service." The airline said it would "continue to evaluate further reductions" based on changing demand trends.

A Southwest 737 in flight over a rural landscape.

Image source: Southwest Airlines.

The airline said it was maintaining service to every city on its route map and said it was preserving about 80% of itineraries previously offered although some non-stop trips might now require a connection. Southwest is also shortening its operational day, removing most flights departing before 7 a.m. and after 8 p.m.

Airlines have been hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, although Southwest shares have held up better than most. The airline has one of the healthiest balance sheets in the industry.

Southwest has not said whether it will seek funding as part of the $50 billion government bailout package announced last week, but the airline's cuts seemingly leave it in compliance with requirements that a carrier preserve service to all markets in order to receive assistance.

Lou Whiteman has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Southwest Airlines. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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