Southwest Airlines canceled thousands of flights over the weekend, citing air traffic control issues and “disruptive weather.”
“ATC issues and disruptive weather have resulted in a high volume of cancellations throughout the weekend while we work to recover our operation,” the airline said in a tweet Saturday.
“We are working hard behind the scenes to minimize challenges and fully recover the operation as we take care of displaced Crews and Customers as quickly as possible,” the company said.
Alan Kasher, who oversees daily flight operations, told staff in a note on Saturday: “We experienced significant impact in the Florida airports [Friday] evening after an FAA-imposed air traffic management program was implemented due to weather and resulted in a large number of cancellations.”
But some on social media are claiming the mass flight cancellations were due to air traffic controllers walking out en masse to protest the vaccine mandate.
“Southwest is trying to cover up over 800 flights being cancelled today, including my connecting flight home from Chicago. They are officially claiming ATC issues and inclement weather, while it is sunny throughout the north east,” one user claimed.
“The truth is that pilots are on strike due to vaccine mandates placed by Southwest requiring pilots to be vaccinated or risk being fired.”
“Because Southwest refused to hear the pilots’ concerns thousands of passengers found out last minute that their flight would be canceled and were given a rescheduled flight in 2 days. Because they claimed ATC issues, they refuse to refund anything or comp hotel rooms for passengers.”
Another user claimed an insider revealed that air traffic controllers at the Jackson International Airport walked out over the vaccine mandates, but a “total news blackout” is preventing the story from surfacing.
“Jacksonville center ATC controllers walked out last night over the vaccine mandate,” the insider said. “Shut the whole thing down. Total disaster for us and other airlines. Total news blackout, be sure to spread the word.”
But it’s not just the air traffic controllers who are reportedly furious over the vaccine mandate.
The Southwest Airlines Pilots Association, which represents about 9,000 pilots, asked a court on Friday to temporarily block the airline from implementing its vaccine mandate until an existing lawsuit over oppressive coronavirus policies is resolved.
“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 legal filing said.
“Southwest Airlines’ additional new and unilateral modification of the parties’ collective bargaining agreement is in clear violation of the RLA.”
Southwest Airlines announced last week that all 60,000 employees must take the COVID injection or receive an exemption by Nov. 24.
American Airlines also saw hundreds of its own employees protesting the vaccine mandate outside its corporate headquarters in Fort Worth last Thursday, further evidence that the vaccine mandate is extremely unpopular within the airline industry.