Southwest’s CEO disagrees with states ending mask mandates, says some pandemic-era changes are here to stay

Mar 15, 2021

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Wearing a mask or face covering is the best way to protect oneself and others from COVID-19, according to most public health experts. But that hasn’t stopped them from becoming politicized and controversial.

Earlier this month Texas and Mississippi controversially lifted their public mask mandates and allowed businesses to reopen at 100% capacity, despite the ongoing pandemic. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott did, however, say that people should still choose to wear masks.

“Removing state mandates does not end personal responsibility and caring for your family members, friends and others in your community,” Abbott said, according to CNN. “People and businesses don’t need the state telling them how to operate.”

For more TPG news delivered each morning to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Gary Kelly, CEO of Dallas-based Southwest Airlines, said on Monday that he thinks masks should still be worn in public, regardless of any state’s policies.

“I’m a huge believer in wearing a mask. I think every individual needs to do his or her part to help crush this pandemic,” Kelly said during an online forum hosted by the Washington Post. “I don’t think it’s too much to ask people to do that. You’re protecting others and you’re protecting yourself.”

“Until the pandemic is over, yes, we should absolutely continue to physically distance, as much as we can, and wear masks as much as we can,” he added.

Although U.S. airlines have each individually imposed mask requirements since last spring, a federal mandate for mask use on airplanes was only instituted in January, shortly following President Joe Biden’s inauguration.

Despite ongoing political tensions, Kelly said that he has not gotten any pushback against mask requirements from Southwest employees.

“We’ve got about 55,000 employees and they reflect the population at large,” he said. “So you have varying views, but I think our people understand that we’re a family here and we’re trying to look out for everyone’s best interest.”

Passengers, however, are another matter.

“Now, every day we’ll have a customer who objects to wearing a mask,” Kelly said. “And I respect that, but we’re in charge of the airplane and making sure that people are safe, and when you’re on our airplane, you’ve got to wear the mask.”

Kelly’s comments come on the heels of a three-week period that has seen an increase in travelers and in forward bookings. As vaccination ramps up around the country — President Biden said last week that all Americans will have access to the vaccine by May — those increases are expected to continue.

But even as restrictions lift and travel resumes, Kelly said that some pandemic-era changes are here to stay.

“We refresh the air in the cabin every two to three minutes. We have very intense deep cleaning protocols, and those things won’t go away just because the pandemic is declared ended,” he said. “So I think it just remains to be seen what role masks play in an enclosed environment like that.”

Featured image courtesy of Scott Olson/Getty Images.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 80,000 Points

TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,650

CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Plus earn up to $50 in statement credits towards grocery store purchases within your first year of account opening.
  • Earn 2X points on dining including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel. Plus, earn 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories.
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on eligible orders over $12 for a minimum of one year with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
  • Get up to $60 back on an eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access Membership through 12/31/2021, and get full access to their workout library through the Peloton app, including cardio, running, strength, yoga, and more. Take classes using a phone, tablet, or TV. No fitness equipment is required.
Regular APR
15.99%-22.99% Variable
Annual Fee
$95
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.