Southwest Airlines CEO Says Flying Is “As Safe Of An Environment As You’re Going To Find”

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The number of flying passengers has been steadily increasing over the past two weeks, but is it “safe” to fly? Gary Kelly, CEO of Southwest Airlines, believes it is according to his interview yesterday on “Face the Nation.”

THE BEST MESSAGE

There’s no denying that airlines are between a rock and a hard place. On one hand, the success of the airline is dependent on people filling the seats (which hasn’t been happening). On the other hand…COVID-19.

As an airline CEO what is the best message? Is flying safe? Are passengers able to social distance? If you require passengers to wear a mask, does it decrease the risk? If you require crew members to wear a mask, does it decrease the risk? Does elimination of food/snacks decrease the risk too? These are all good questions to ask.

THE INTERVIEW AT A GLANCE

Generally, the initial question in an interview is a “softball lob”…an easy question to initiate conversation and set the tone of interview. However, this interview started with a fastball, as the interviewer asked “is it safe to fly again?”

“It is” Kelly responded.

He goes on to detail the reasoning for his response:

“We’re doing everything possible to encourage people to come back and fly. We’re cleaning airplanes. We’re requiring masks for our employees and our customers. We’re using very deep cleanings every night. We’re using electrostatic misters which will kill the virus on surfaces for up to 30 days. We’re exercising social distancing, and on board the aircraft we won’t be booking the airplanes full so people can spread out.”

A few minutes later, Kelly is asked “how much risk is there?”

“I don’t think the risk on an airplane is any greater risk than anywhere else…it’s as safe of an environment as you’re going to find.”

WOW! As safe of an environment as you’re going to find? That’s a bold statement.

If you’re interested in watching the entire (6 minute) interview, here it is:

FINAL STAMP

I have a lot of respect for Gary Kelly and, overall, think he has done a great job with Southwest Airlines.

As Kelly said in the interview, the airline is very well prepared, has a strong balance sheet, a lot of cash, a great business model, a low-cost structure and I think that model will serve them much better than other airlines during this hurdle.

However, I question some of the logic behind his answers. I can’t speak for everyone but I assume the majority of society has been social distancing in their homes for the past 2 months. Is he suggesting that the airplane is as safe as my home?

I think it also fails to take into account the logistics of air travel such as transportation to the airport, coming into contact with TSA agents (who have reported hundreds of cases themselves), transiting through the departure and arrival airports, etc. Personally, I find it hard to believe that this entire process is as safe as my home.

Just for clarification, I like the fact that the airlines are taking measures to make passengers feel safe with their new procedures but is flying safe?

Am I off base? What do you think of his comments? When will you feel it’s safe to travel? Do you have trips planned soon? Are you actively planning trips?

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