The decision to open up middle seats comes as Southwest posted its biggest ever quarterly loss on Thursday. The airline reported a loss of $1.2 billion in the three months ended Sept. 30. During the same period last year, Southwest posted a $659 million profit.
“This practice of effectively keeping middle seats open bridged us from the early days of the pandemic, when we had little knowledge about the behavior of the virus, to now,” the airline said in a statement Thursday. “Today, aligned with science-based findings from trusted medical and aviation organizations, we will resume selling all available seats for travel beginning Dec. 1, 2020.”
Southwest CEO Gary Kelly said that the airline is seeing “modest improvements in leisure passenger trends since the slowdown we experienced in July,” but noted recovery won’t be any time soon.
“We are pursuing additional revenue opportunities that utilize idle aircraft and employees to provide our legendary customer service to new, popular destinations. We recently published new service that we expect to commence on November 15, 2020 to both Miami International Airport and Palm Springs International Airport, as well as new seasonal service that we expect to commence on December 19, 2020, to both Montrose Regional Airport (Telluride and Crested Butte) and Yampa Valley Regional Airport (Steamboat Springs). We also recently announced our intention to add service in first half 2021 to Chicago O’Hare International Airport, and return to Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport, complementing existing service at Chicago Midway and Houston Hobby airports, and reinforcing a long-standing commitment by Southwest to both metropolitan areas.
We also announce our intention to add service in first half 2021 to Colorado Springs Municipal Airport, Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport in Georgia, and a return to Jackson-Medgar Wiley Evers International Airport in Mississippi.”