Layoffs loom if payroll aid is not extended, Southwest Airlines CEO warns

FILE PHOTO: A Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-800 lands at San Francisco International Airport, San Francisco, California, February 14, 2015.REUTERS/Louis Nastro/

(Reuters) - Southwest Airlines Co could be forced to lay off thousands of employees due to the coronavirus crisis in the absence of an extension of federal payroll aid, its Chief Executive Officer Gary Kelly said on Thursday.

"A clean extension of the payroll support program would buy us six critical months to see our way through to the other side of the pandemic," Kelly said in a video message on twitter.

U.S. airlines have been pleading for another $25 billion in payroll support to protect jobs for another six months after the last package, which banned furloughs, expired at midnight.

Reporting by Ankit Ajmera in Bengaluru; Editing by Amy Caren Daniel