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Masks, fogging, social distancing — airlines across the globe are implementing new safety precautions to aid in the fight against the coronavirus health crisis. But despite a recent bump in TSA screenings, air travel is down drastically from where it was this time last year, or even a few months ago.
Southwest CEO Gary Kelly, speaking as part of an online “Ask Gary” video segment shared in mid-April, had even said his airline was preparing for a “very prolonged, sluggish travel environment,” likely through 2021.
“And we’re just going to have to learn patience if that turns out to be the case,” Kelly stated in the video, which was published to Southwest’s YouTube channel.
This Sunday, however, Kelly seemed keen on speeding up that process. During an appearance on Sunday’s edition of CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Kelly said flying on Southwest’s aircraft was indeed safe, and admitted that the carrier is doing “everything possible to encourage people to come back and fly.”
“We’re cleaning airplanes, we’re requiring masks of 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,” said Kelly. “And onboard the aircraft, we won’t be booking airplanes full, so that people can spread out.
“So absolutely, we’re doing everything we can to make it as safe as humanly possible.”
Kelly told CBS’s Margaret Brennan that Southwest was finally starting to see a slight uptick in travel, but that demand for flights was still “not there.” He added that Southwest was aiming to refrain from furloughing its employees, but didn’t rule it out as a last resort, the New York Post reported.
Southwest, among all other major U.S. airlines, has recently announced that passengers and flight attendants will be required to wear masks for the duration of travel.
"Southwest encourages Customers to bring their own face mask or covering, along with hand sanitizer, while traveling," the airline wrote in a media release issued Friday. "If a Customer forgets their mask, Southwest will have one available for them."
A previous edition of “Ask Gary” had also outlined the latest cleaning protocol for Southwest aircraft, including information about its electrostatic misters, which deposit an “anti-microbial film” on the cabin’s surfaces.