Goldman sees longer recovery for air traffic to return to normal, upgrades Southwest to buy

A Southwest Airlines plane lands next to a United Airlines plane at San Francisco International Airport on March 06, 2020 in Burlingame, California. In the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, airlines are facing significant losses as people are cancelling travel plans and businesses are restricting travel. Southwest Airlines says they expect to lose between $200 to $300 million dollars in the coming weeks.
Justin Sullivan | Getty Images

Goldman Sachs had expected airline traffic to rebound in the U.S. at a similar pace to China's post-coronavirus recovery. However, with the resurgence in cases and 14-day travel quarantines imposed in places like New York, the investment bank is pushing out its expectations for when air travel will return to normal in the country.

"We now expect traffic for the carriers in our coverage universe to recover to 2019 levels in 2023 as opposed to 2022," wrote Goldman analyst Catherine O'Brien.

She believes international travel, especially corporate travel overseas will take longer to recover.

However, the firm does believe the industry is managing its cash burn better than it expected and Goldman does see an investment opportunity in one U.S. airline because of its domestic focus.