The news about Gary Kelly’s positive Covid test takes the cake for bad timing considering he had just recently cast doubt on the benefits of wearing masks on airplanes.
Southwest Chief Executive Gary Kelly tested positive for Covid-19 after appearing at a U.S. Senate hearing on Wednesday, a spokesperson for the airline confirmed to Reuters.
Kelly appeared at the Senate Commerce hearing with the CEOs of United Airlines and American Airlines as well as a senior Delta Air Lines executive and the head of a flight attendants union. Kelly drew attention at the hearing for questioning the health benefits of masks on airplanes.
The other airlines did not immediately comment on whether their executives had tested for Covid-19.
Southwest said that “although testing negative multiple times prior to the Senate Commerce Committee Hearing, Gary tested positive for Covid-19 after returning home, experiencing mild symptoms, and taking a PCR test.”
The airline added that Kelly “is doing well and currently resting at home, he has been fully vaccinated and received the booster earlier this year. Gary’s symptoms continue to be mild, and each day he is moving closer to a full recovery.”
Kelly is set to step down next year as chief executive.
Southwest confirmed Kelly’s positive test after Reuters learned of it through other officials. Kelly did not wear a mask for parts of the hearing and questioned the health benefit of masks on airplanes.
“I think the case is very strong that masks don’t add much if anything in the air cabin environment — it’s very safe, very high quality compared to any other indoor setting,” Kelly said.
Kelly told other airlines of the positive test on Thursday.
On Friday, a spokeswoman for the Senate Commerce Committee alerted reporters who had been at the hearing of a positive test of someone who had been at the hearing but did not disclose the identity.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle and Chizu Nomiyama)