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Southwest says flights are more full and fares are rising

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DALLAS (AP) — Southwest Airlines said Wednesday that bookings are improving and leisure-travel fares for June are approaching pre-pandemic levels, further signs that the airline industry is recovering from a deep slump.

The Dallas-based airline said the average April flight was 79% full, and it expects June flights to be 85% full. Southwest said it has sold 55% of the seats it expects to fill in June and 35% for July, which it called “fairly typical” booking patterns.

Southwest said in a regulatory filing that demand is still being driven mostly by leisure travelers. It said bookings by business travelers are ticking modestly higher but remain down about 80% from 2019 levels.

Southwest said operating revenue in April was 42% below April 2019. It forecast that the revenue decline compared with two years ago will narrow to between 20% and 25% by June.

The airline said it cut its “core” cash-burn rate to $6 million a day in April and now expects to lose between $1 million and $3 million a day in the April-through-June quarter. That is $1 million better than a previous forecast. It expects to reach break-even in June, excluding debt service, capital spending and some other costs.

The shares were down 2% in early trading about an hour before Wednesday’s regular session.

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