By Dave Sebastian

 

Southwest Airlines Co. said it expects third-quarter capacity to fall 30% to 35% and plans to cut its November flight schedule, as passenger demand and booking trends remain leisure-oriented and inconsistent by region amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

The airline said it expects November capacity falling in the range of 35% to 40%.

Southwest said leisure bookings modestly improved for the remainder of September and October. It will continue limiting the number of seats sold on each flight, with middle seats remaining open for passengers who aren't traveling together through Nov. 30, the company said.

The company's operating revenue fell 70% in August, compared with a 70% to 75% decline it had expected. It forecast operating revenue would fall by between 65% and 70% in September, narrower by five percentage points on the range's upper end from the previous guidance, and fall 65% to 75% for October.

Southwest posted a load factor, or the proportion of seats sold, of 42% for August, in line with the company's guidance range. It expects a September load factor of 45% to 50%, compared with its prior outlook of 40% to 50%, and October load factor of 45% to 55%

August available-seat miles, a measure of capacity also known as ASM, were down 27%. It expects ASM to fall 40% in September and by 40% to 45% in October, narrower by five percentage points on the range's upper end from the prior outlook.

The company said its cash burn was about $19 million a day, on average, in August. It expects average daily core cash burn of about $17 million in the third quarter, compared with its prior estimate of about $20 million.

Southwest said it anticipates third-quarter economic fuel costs of $1.20 to $1.25 a gallon, compared with its prior estimate of $1.20 to $1.30 a gallon. It continues to expect third-quarter operating expenses, excluding fuel and oil expenses and other items, to fall 10% to 20%.

The company said it has raised about $18.7 billion so far this year, including $13.2 billion in debt issuances and sale-and-leaseback transactions, $2.2 billion through a common stock offering and $3.3 billion of Payroll Support Program proceeds.

Southwest said it doesn't currently plan to use its loyalty program to back additional financing, a move other airlines have explored. It continues to have unencumbered assets worth about $12 billion, including about $10 billion in aircraft and about $2 billion in non-aircraft assets such as spare engines, ground equipment and real estate.

 

Write to Dave Sebastian at dave.sebastian@wsj.com

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

September 16, 2020 07:27 ET (11:27 GMT)

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