We reported yesterday that Southwest Airlines cancelled hundreds of flights. They claimed that the cancellations were due to poor weather conditions and air traffic control problems.
But their issues continued, with another 1,000 flights canceled today, as well — almost 28% of their total flights. The second day was marked by significant problems.
As we noted earlier, the claim of “weather” didn’t match what was happening in the country, and it wasn’t hitting other carriers. So, that wasn’t the real story. Fox’s Leland Vittert indicated that there was a “mass sickout” in protest of vaccine mandates. This is clearly an internal issue, and not weather.
The FAA claimed that the problem wasn’t due to air traffic control issues, that there had been no staffing shortage reported since Friday. “Some airlines continue to experience scheduling challenges due to aircraft and crews being out of place. Please contact the airlines for details about current flight schedules,” they said.
The hardest hit airports by cancellations were Chicago Midway, Baltimore and Dallas Love Field.
While the Southwest Pilot’s Association said they weren’t participating in any official or unofficial job action, they decried Southwest’s “poor planning” and “operational challenges,” noting that the COVID vaccine mandate — on top of existing shortages and issues — was a further distraction.
“Make no mistake about it – due to months of staffing issues and inefficient scheduling practices we have been operating at a higher than normal operational risk,” the union’s safety committee told members in a post on Saturday.
According to it, reports of fatigue that require pilots to not fly are three times more historical norms.
“All of these challenges have led to an added distraction in the cockpit,” it said. “This week’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate announcement by the Company only exacerbates the situation.”
Friday’s request by the Dallas labor union to temporarily block implementation of Covid-19 policies and the mandate for vaccines was made before a Dallas federal judge. The union argued the company had taken unilateral decisions that required negotiations.
Southwest is only the tip of an iceberg. American Airlines could be the next on the list. The union representing the pilots of American Airlines warned that the airline may face staff shortages if it implements a strict vaccine mandate. Things could be very exciting as we approach the holidays season.
Joe Biden, thank you!