April 22 (Reuters) - Southwest Airlines Co on Thursday posted a smaller-than-expected quarterly adjusted loss and forecast lower cash burn in the second quarter as rising vaccination rates and pent-up demand for leisure travel signal an “optimistic summer”.
U.S. airlines are preparing for a rebound in summer bookings after nearly a year in the doldrums due to the COVID-19 pandemic and accompanying travel restrictions.
“Vaccinations are on the rise, and COVID-19 hospitalizations in the United States are down significantly from their peak in January 2021,” said Chief Executive Officer Gary Kelly.
“As a result, we are experiencing steady weekly improvements in domestic leisure bookings.”
The company said it was adding flights and expects second-quarter capacity to rise about 90% from a year earlier, but about 15% below 2019 levels, when air travel was not hit by the COVID-19 crisis.
Second-quarter average core cash burn is expected to be between $2 million and $4 million per day, Southwest said, compared with about $13 million per day in the previous three months. Southwest said it expects to achieve break-even average core cash flow or better by June.
Excluding items, the Dallas-based company reported a net loss of $1.02 billion, or $1.72 per share, in the first quarter ended March 31, compared with a net loss of $77 million, or 15 cents per share, a year earlier.
Total operating revenue fell 51.5% to $2.05 billion.
Analysts on average had expected Southwest to report a loss of $1.85 per share and revenue $2.07 billion, according to IBES data from Refinitiv. (Reporting by Sanjana Shivdas and Ankit Ajmera in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila)