North America

Southwest Airlines’ Former CEO Gary Kelly Was Right About the Corporate Travel Recovery

Edward Russell
July 27th, 2023 at 3:33 PM EDT

Southwest ticket counter in Dallas

Southwest Airlines former CEO Gary Kelly's firm belief that the industry was in for a slow corporate travel recovery is looking increasingly prescient. Southwest is undertaking the not-so-simple task of redesigning its network to reflect a future with fewer road warriors for some years to come.

“I expect business to come back, but I think it’s going to trail the restoration of leisure for a while," Southwest's current CEO Bob Jordan, who replaced Kelly in February 2022, said during the carrier's second-quarter earnings call Thursday.

While Jordan did not say when he expects corporate demand to recover from the pandemic, given we're already three years into the rebound, Kelly's forecast of a 5-10 year business travel recovery is looking increasingly accurate. Southwest's network changes, which Jordan said will drive roughly $500 million in incremental pre-tax profits next year, will only begin in January and be completed by March — or four years into the Covid recovery, and only a year shy of Kelly's expectations.


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