Southwest Air CEO Takes 10% Pay Cut and Carrier Mulls Reducing Schedule

Southwest Air's CEO is taking a 10% pay cut and the carrier is considering reducing its schedule as the coronavirus wreaks havoc on the airline industry.
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Southwest Airlines  (LUV) - Get Report Chief Executive Gary Kelly told employees that he would take a 10% pay cut as the coronavirus outbreak wreaks havoc on the global travel industry, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The company is also considering reducing its flying schedule and is taking other cost-cutting measures. 

The coronavirus has caused what Kelly, in a video message to employees on Monday, described as an "alarming" drop in bookings. 

He also said that the virus had created the most serious headwind the industry has faced since 9/11, "and it may be worse."

Kelly's total compensation in 2018, according to Southwest's most recent proxy filing, was $7.73 million.

One potential tailwind for the industry, according to Kelly, is the oil-price drop stemming from the Russia-Saudi Arabia price war. That decline helped prompt investors to send the Dow Jones Industrial Average on Monday to its largest point decline in history. 

Kelly said that falling fuel prices could save Southwest $1 billion or more this year if prices stay low. The airline will take other steps to reduce costs, including a hiring freeze for non-front-line workers.

"I can't promise we won't have to ground airplanes and furlough employees. I can promise you it will be the last thing we do, not the first," Kelly said.

Kelly also said that the company expected to start receiving deliveries of Boeing's  (BA) - Get Report 737 MAX jet in the third quarter. It is too early to say what the company will do if demand for the jet does not recover, Kelly said.