‘We believe the worst is behind us’: Travel boost helps Southwest, American Airlines envision end to financial pain of COVID-19

Southwest employee Ericka Thompson reacts to Jennifer Melchionne, from Houston, approaching the baggage check counter with her Great Dane, Blue, at Dallas Love Field in Dallas on October 7, 2020. (Lynda M. Gonzalez/The Dallas Morning News/TNS)

A Southwest Airlines flight takes off at Dallas Love Field on Thursday, Jan. 7, 2021, in Dallas. (Smiley N. Pool/The Dallas Morning News/TNS)

Southwest Airlines and American Airlines would have lost nearly $4 billion combined without the help of government payroll aid in the first quarter, but the carriers are envisioning a path back to profitability after a year of devastating losses from the COVID-19 pandemic.