Southwest Airlines cancelled more than 1,800 flights over Columbus Day weekend caused by what the company officially said was “air traffic control issues” and “disruptive weather.” However, the real reason workers reportedly stayed home is to protest the airline’s Covid-19 vaccine mandate for workers.
Southwest canceled more than more than 800 flights on Saturday, and 1,000, or 27 percent, of flights on Sunday. While the airline’s official explanation was bad weather and air traffic control problems, the Federal Aviation Administration stated otherwise. The FAA released a statement through Twitter reporting that the airline was experiencing staffing shortages. No other airlines shared Southwest’s air traffic control and weather issues.
A Southwest Airlines representative reportedly told Gurindar Rai, a California resident, that his flight to Florida was cancelled due to an employee walkout.
“They said it’s because of the mandate of the vaccine requirement for Southwest employees,” Rai stated. “They said that they’ve had a lot of employees walk out.”
Employees from other major airlines are expected to join in as well. Hundreds of American Airlines workers, including pilots and flight attendants protested the company’s vaccine mandates outside of its headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas last week.
Southwest told employees to comply with Joe Biden’s vaccination mandates and become fully vaccinated against Covid-19 by Nov. 24, or face unemployment. The Southwest Airlines Pilots Association (SWAPA) filed a lawsuit against the airline over its vaccine mandate. SWAPA has urged its members to protest the mandate, but clarified in a statement that the slew of cancellations had no connection to an official or unofficial protest.
“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 union said in a statement. “Our Pilots will continue to overcome SWA management’s poor planning, as well as any external operational challenges, and remain the most productive pilots in the world.”
Southwest Airlines, United Airlines, American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, JetBlue, and Hawaiian Airlines all require workers to receive the Covid-19 vaccine.
Delta Airlines is the only major airline that has not mandated employee vaccinations – yet. However, unvaccinated Delta employees will be fined a $200 monthly penalty beginning in November.