The travel recovery airlines had hoped for has arrived. Now the question is whether the industry can keep it going.

Throngs of vacation travelers and an infusion of government aid have restored Southwest Airlines Co. and American Airlines Group Inc. to profitability. Delta Air Lines Inc. also reported its first pandemic-era profit last week.

Appetite for leisure travel this summer is as strong——or stronger——than it was before the pandemic, airline executives say.

Airlines are scrambling to hire new workers and rebuild their networks to meet the surge in demand, a turnaround for an industry that lost billions of dollars last year as travel all but disappeared at the height of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Things aren’t back to normal yet. But clearly, they have stabilized and are much improved,” Southwest Chief Executive Gary Kelly said during a conference call with analysts and media.


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