The union representing Southwest Airlines acknowledged an “operational meltdown” over the weekend but said the cancellation of hundreds of flights doesn’t have to do with vaccine mandates.
After the airline canceled more than a quarter of its flights on Sunday, speculation swirled that it was because of “sickouts,” or workers using their sick leave to stay home from work as a form of group protest. The Southwest Airlines Pilots Association said federal law doesn’t permit that type of action.
“There are false claims of job actions by Southwest Pilots currently gaining traction on social media and making their way into mainstream news. I can say with certainty that there are no work slowdowns or sickouts either related to the recent mandatory vaccine mandate or otherwise,” the group said in a statement. “SWAPA has not authorized, and will not condone, any job action.”
Southwest Airlines has blamed weather problems and air traffic control issues.
The union hit at Southwest for the massive number of canceled flights, which continued into Monday. It said that while the problems were a “minor temporary event” for other airlines, Southwest was “devastated” because the company’s operation “has become brittle and subject to massive failures under the slightest pressure.”
The union also took Southwest to task for “putting profits ahead of people,” adding that SWAPA leadership has a meeting on Monday scheduled with Bob Waltz, the airline’s vice president of flight operations, to discuss the current issues and other monthslong complaints with the company.
More than 1,000 flights were canceled by the Dallas-based carrier on Sunday. As of Monday morning, it had canceled about 350 more flights and delayed more than 300 more, according to the Associated Press.
The cancellations come against the backdrop of Southwest announcing last week that all its U.S. employees must be fully vaccinated before a Dec. 8 deadline if they want to remain with the company.
The Biden administration has mandated that all companies with federal contracts must require their staff to be vaccinated. The administration also signed an executive order requiring vaccination or regular negative COVID-19 tests for workers at companies with more than 100 employees, although guidance from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has not yet been released.
Late last month, the union representing American Airlines, the Allied Pilots Association, cautioned that the carrier may encounter staffing issues as the holiday season approaches over the federal vaccine mandate.
“Some of APA’s members are unable to undergo vaccination for documented medical reasons, while others are reluctant to get vaccinated based upon concerns about the potential for career-ending side effects,” the APA said in a letter.
“All of those members are still able to perform their duties as professional pilots,” the APA continued. “To force those pilots out of their positions, rather than offering viable alternatives will have adverse consequences upon their families and the airline industry as a whole.”
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Original Author: Zachary Halaschak