Southwest Airlines has “ample growth opportunities” once it gets past the staffing shortages curtailing the carrier’s near-term growth potential, according to CFO Tammy Romo.
Southwest went into 2022 with the aim of operating 100% of 2019 capacity levels this year, but in late January rolled back that goal to down 4% versus 2019 for the full year. That guidance remains intact, though first-quarter capacity is now expected to be down 10% compared to 2019, a slight downgrade. Southwest’s second-quarter 2022 capacity is anticipated to be down 7% versus 2019, while July-December capacity is expected to be flat versus 2019.
Southwest is planning to hire 8,000 new staff this year, which the carrier believes will enable it to go beyond pre-pandemic capacity levels in 2023.
“We know that we have pent-up demand in the markets we were serving pre-pandemic,” Romo told a J.P. Morgan investors’ conference last week, explaining that a central component of rebuilding Southwest’s network is adding “frequencies and depth” on its existing network.