Amid Massive Flight Disruptions, Southwest Airlines Disputes Connection To Vaccine Mandate Protests

Headline Roundup October 11th, 2021

Amid a series of massive flight disruptions, Southwest Airlines denounced “unfounded rumor and speculation” that the company’s recent decision to mandate vaccinations spurred cancellations and delays. The airline attributed the "high volume of cancellations" and delays to “weather challenges” in Florida and “unexpected air traffic control issues in the same region.” Southwest canceled a total of 1,826 flights and delayed 1,784 flights on Saturday and Sunday, according to data from FlightAware. The disruptions continued into Monday with over 360 cancellations and 1,300 delays. Other airlines were not as severely impacted by these issues; airlines such as American and Spirit canceled 2% of flights over the holiday weekend. The Southwest Airlines Pilots Association (SWAPA) on Friday filed a motion to temporarily block the airline's COVID-19 vaccine mandate until an ongoing lawsuit over alleged U.S. labor law violations is resolved; the airline emphasized that the matter won't "require negotiation" moving forward. SWAPA released a statement that claimed pilots and airline staff were not planning a sickout over the company's vaccination requirements, saying that "management's poor planning" and "external operational challenges" were more probable causes of the cancellations.

Coverage was prominent across the spectrum, with many outlets citing conflicting tallies for the total number of flights canceled. Right-rated voices were more likely to link the cancellations to vaccine mandates protests, a narrative advanced by Texas Republicans Ted Cruz and Chip Roy on Twitter. Some left-rated voices criticized those outlets for making such a connection "even though they offered no evidence of it."

From the Right

Southwest Airlines canceled at least 1,800 domestic flights and delayed another 1,500 flights over the weekend, leaving thousands of U.S. travelers stranded and scrambling to find new transportation.

The widespread operational staffing shortage, which resulted in the termination of nearly 28 percent of the airline’s scheduled flights for the day, come less than a week after the company forced the COVID-19 vaccine on employees. Speculations swirled on social media that the cancellations were due to “sickouts” by employees protesting the shot mandate.

Southwest, however, told The Federalist that attributing the cancellations to...

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From the Left

Conservative figures and politicians opposing vaccine and mask mandates have blamed more than 2,000 recent flight cancelations by Southwest Airlines on vaccine mandates, but both the airline and pilots' union have said the massive number of flight disruptions had nothing to do with it.

That didn't stop some politicians, like former president Donald Trump, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, and Rep. Andy Biggs from Arizona, from trying to link the cancelations to federal vaccine mandates even though they offered no evidence of it.

"The weekend challenges were not a result...

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From the Center

Dallas-based Southwest Airlines canceled more than 1,000 flights over the weekend, leaving passengers stranded across the country.

Why it matters: The mass cancellations come after its pilots asked a court to block the company's new COVID vaccine mandate.

Between the lines: Airline insiders and conservatives are are wondering if the cancellations are part of a "sick out" in response to the vaccine policy.

Southwest's pilots' union said the cancellations were not part of a planned labor demonstration.

More than 25% of the airline's flights were canceled on Sunday per the FlightAware tracker.

"We can say with confidence that our...

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