Southwest Airlines cancelled over 2,000 flights this weekend and hundreds more on Monday as pilots are reportedly refusing to work as a result of a coronavirus vaccine mandate, although it is tough to confirm that a “sick-out” is occurring at this time.
Southwest’s pilot association denied a sick-out in a news release issued Saturday which said, “SWAPA is aware of operational difficulties affecting Southwest Airlines today due to a number of issues, but we can say with confidence that our Pilots are not participating in any official or unofficial job actions.”
The pilot’s association filed a lawsuit against the company on Friday, requesting that a federal court block the company’s ability to mandate the vaccine. They argue it violates the Railway Labor Act, according to Bloomberg.
The Railway Labor Act sets guidelines for relations between unions and airlines.
The Biden administration put out rules for airline employees to get the vaccine, as they have contracts with the federal government. Most major airlines are complying with the guidance.
“The new vaccine mandate unlawfully imposes new conditions of employment and the new policy threatens termination of any pilot not fully vaccinated by December 8, 2021,” the filing said, according to Bloomberg.
“Southwest Airlines’ additional new and unilateral modification of the parties’ collective bargaining agreement is in clear violation of the RLA.”
The airline cited weather and air traffic control issues for their sweeping cancellations and even dismissed concerns that staff was protesting its newly imposed vaccine mandate, which went along with Biden administration guidance.
“It’s inaccurate,” a Southwest spokeswoman said in an email, according to CNBC. “There’s a lot of unfounded rumor and speculation circulating.”
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Yet, the Federal Aviation Association said that there were no staffing shortages being reported for air traffic control and that the weather concerns in Florida were minimal. In addition, other airlines were not experiencing delays and cancellations on the same scale.
“No FAA air traffic staffing shortages have been reported since Friday. Flight delays & cancellations occurred for a few hours Friday PM due to widespread severe weather, military training, & limited staffing in one area of the Jacksonville en route center,” the government agency tweeted Sunday.
“Some airlines continue to experience scheduling challenges due to aircraft and crews being out of place.”
Some airlines continue to experience scheduling challenges due to aircraft and crews being out of place. (2/2)
— The FAA ✈️ (@FAANews) October 10, 2021
It seems that Southwest is poorly attempting damage control for the internal issues that they are facing with the mandate, and their customers who had flights this Columbus Day weekend certainly took note.
“Joe Biden’s illegal vaccine mandate at work!” Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz tweeted. “Suddenly, we’re short on pilots & air traffic controllers. #ThanksJoe”
Joe Biden’s illegal vaccine mandate at work!
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) October 10, 2021
If the pilots are really taking action against the vaccine mandate, they should be applauded, as it will likely be tough for people who simply do not want the shot to claim a medical or religious exemption.
Incidents like these will continue to occur if legal action is not taken against these contentious mandates. The entire economy will presumably take a hit as a result.