Southwest Airlines Cancels Flights

( Southwest Airlines canceled even more flights on Monday, after a weekend in which the company experienced major disruptions.

The airline blamed those disruptions over the weekend to issues with air traffic control and weather. Southwest as well as the pilots’ union that works for it both denied that the reason for the disruptions was a “sickout” by the pilots in protest of mandatory vaccinations for COVID-19 the company has instituted.

On Monday, the airline cancelled another 360 flights, which represented 10% of its total schedule. Another 800 of Southwest’s flights were delayed that day.

While both the company and the pilots’ union denied that the disruptions were caused by a push back against the company’s mandatory vaccinations, it would be a major problem if that’s actually the reason.

Southwest Airlines has instituted a mandatory vaccination policy for all flight attendants, mechanics, pilots and other staff members.

It is a little odd timing that the disruptions started happening only one day after the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association filed a contention in federal court seeking to have the company’s COVID-19 vaccination mandate blocked.

In the court filing, the union said it wasn’t opposed to the vaccinations, but said Southwest Airlines was required to negotiate with them before instituting such a major step.

To this point, the union has said pilots aren’t conducting a slowdown or sickout to protest the mandate. It has said it “has not authorized, and will not condone, any job action” in response to the mandate.

The reason for the disruptions in service, according to the pilots’ union was that the company’s operation “has become brittle and subject to massive failures under the slightest pressure” because the company hasn’t provided enough support. The union also said there’s an “already strained relationship” it has with Southwest Airlines.

During the height of the pandemic, many airlines including Southwest convinced a lot of their workers to take a leave of absence to save them some money. Unions that represent staffers at both American Airlines and Southwest Airlines have since said management at the companies didn’t bring pilots back soon enough, which left them all short-handed.

However, the executive vice president of daily operations at Southwest Airlines, Alan Kasher, said they were properly staffed for weekend service, but issues with air traffic control as well as poor Florida weather disrupted service to the point where they couldn’t recover quick enough.

And, because there are fewer flights scheduled due to the pandemic, there weren’t many alternatives to accommodate the passengers who were stranded as a result.

Chris Mainz, a spokesman for Southwest Airlines, said:

“The weekend challenges were not a result of Southwest employee demonstrations.”

The Biden administration has pushed all airlines to institute COVID-19 vaccine mandates, in part because they are considered federal contractors. That’s because they get paid to operate flights by the Defense Department. Those included flights that carried refugees from Afghanistan to the United States over the summer.

Southwest Airlines announced last week that all of its employees have to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by December 8 if they want to keep their jobs with the company. Employees can only apply for an exemption for religious or medical reasons.