Southwest Airlines has continued to cancel flights, despite reports that the pilots’ union is planning a strike over vaccine regulations.
According to FlightAware, 355 Southwest Airlines flights were canceled and 571 were delayed as of Monday morning. The cancellations and delays followed the airline’s cancellation of roughly 2,000 flights over the weekend, leaving travelers stranded at airports across the United States.
Employees called in sick en masse in protest of the company’s recently announced vaccine mandate, which gives employees until December 8 to get immunized against Covid-19 or risk losing their jobs, according to rumors. The mandate was established in response to the Biden administration’s directives.
The airline, on the other hand, blamed the weekend delays on “[air traffic control]issues and disruptive weather,” while the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association (SWAPA), which represents about 10,000 Southwest pilots, said on Sunday that “there are no work slowdowns or sickouts either related to the recent mandatory vaccine mandate or otherwise.” The airline blamed “staffing at Jacksonville Center,” the country’s fourth-busiest area control center, which oversees air traffic in parts of Florida, Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, and North Carolina. The union said it would not authorize such action, and sided with the airline in blaming “staffing at Jacksonville Center.”
Southwest’s “operation has become brittle and prone to huge failures under the smallest pressure,” according to the union, whereas other airlines were virtually unaffected by the alleged staffing issue in Jacksonville Center.
Over the weekend, a number of aviation journalists reported that there was a “sickout” at Jacksonville Center. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) dismissed the reports, and Jacksonville Aviation Authority COO Tony Cugno told the JAA board of directors that staffing shortages were caused by a number of employees taking annual leave, as well as others staying at home after receiving their Covid-19 vaccine.
However, unconfirmed reports claim that some air traffic controllers are skipping work in protest of the demands.
The airline’s explanations and those of the Jacksonville authorities haven’t put an end to whispers of discontent within the company. For one thing, the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association is suing the airline over the vaccine mandate, and filed a move to have the demand stopped on Friday. The union’s statement also made no mention of anti-vaccine employees taking time off by using up vacation days, as some internet commentators have speculated.
Passengers who were impacted by the weekend disruptions said that not only were flights canceled, but that Southwest’s airport offices were also unstaffed. This has yet to be explained by the airline. News from Brinkwire in a nutshell. Search the internet for further information.