Southwest Airlines Cancels 1,900 Flights. Pilots Protesting Vaccine Mandates?

Image By Jeramey Lende via Shutterstock

In Brief

  • The Facts:
    • Southwest Airlines cancelled almost 2000 flights in the past few days, blaming weather and problems with air traffic controllers.

    • No other airlines experienced these issues.

    • Rumors suggest SW pilots walked out, protesting vaccine mandates.

    • The SW pilots union claims the rumor is not true, and blames Southwest for the operational issues.

  • Reflect On:
    • Are we seeing pilots resist vaccine mandates as a large group all at once?

    • If true, is this the power of unity in action?

    • Why do we never get a straight answer from corporations about what is happening? What is our culture creates a constant lack of transparency and honesty?

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On Monday, Oct 11th, Southwest Airlines canceled another 365 flights, 10% of its total schedule for the day, following a weekend where they cancelled over 1,000. Southwest claimed air traffic control issues and bad weather caused the the cancellations, but no other airline experienced any issues like this, calling into question the accuracy of their claims.

In fact, The Federal Aviation Administration, who provides air traffic control services, pushed back on Southwest’s claims, stating once again that Southwest was the only airline to have these issues and that it had nothing to do with them.

Just days ago, it was clear that a pilot strike would disrupt air travel significantly. Now, we see it’s quite possible it has.

Rumors began swirling that Southwest had experienced a pilot walkout due to vaccine mandates. Currently, the union representing the pilots claims that is not the case.

When the Biden administration announced vaccine mandates that would affect over 100 million American workers in September, many companies took to the courts to block vaccine mandates. A union representing over 9,000 Southwest airline pilots was one of them.

In a court filing on October 8th, the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association asked a court to grant a temporary stay against the federal vaccination mandates until an ongoing lawsuit over what they allege are violations of US labor laws is resolved.

The legal filing claims,

“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,”[…] Southwest Airlines additional new and unilateral modification of the parties’ collective bargaining agreement is in clear violation of the RLA.”

According to the Biden admins vaccine mandates, Southwest has a deadline of Oct. 4th 2021, for employees to be vaccinated or have an approved medical or religious exemption. Southwest holds contracts with the federal government, which pulls their employees into Biden’s federal mandates. Because they are contractors, a weekly testing option does not apply.

In response to the rumors of a pilot walkout, the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association claims it “has not authorized, and will not condone, any job action.” They then went on to say that Southwest’s operation “has become brittle and subject to massive failures under the slightest pressure” because of a lack of support from the company.

Southwest Airlines is blaming the air traffic controller and weather, the pilots union is blaming Southwest airlines, and the people are left with no clear answer. It’s obvious to note why both groups would want to protect their interests by fabricating a lie, but it’s not entirely clear what the truth is.

The Takeaway

Given the union and pilots were already trying to sue to stop the vaccine mandates, it is not unreasonable to think they would walk out to protest these authoritarian mandates.

We are in a time where if you oppose the strong arm measures being forced upon people, you must take a stand. Continually going along with them will only lead to a future with less freedom, one of the key concerns of most who oppose mandates. At some point, masses of people need to stand up for what they feel is right and resist. Perhaps this is what we are seeing with these Southwest pilots.

If it is indeed true that these pilots walked out in protest, we are also seeing the constant lack of transparency we get from corporations, government, and media about what’s really going on. Does a society thrive without honesty and transparency?

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