Southwest Airlines became the "villain of the day" on Twitter this weekend when it unexpectedly canceled hundreds of flights. The company left people stranded all over the country during a busy holiday weekend, in some cases forcing them to miss work or personal obligations. In addition to legitimate outrage, social media quickly filled with snide jokes about the catastrophe.
Southwest Airlines is the second-largest domestic airline in the U.S., and it canceled thousands of flights at the last minute on Saturday and Sunday this weekend. According to a report by USA Today, the 1,018 cancellations on Sunday accounted for 28 percent of the flights Southwest had booked that day, and the 808 cancellations on Saturday were just under 25 percent of that day's flights. Many customers were asked to wait days for their trip to be rescheduled, which meant last-minute hotel rooms and meals, as well as missed appointments back at home— assuming most of those customers were heading home after spending the holiday weekend away.
The cancellations are part of an ongoing trend in the air travel industry, which is plagued by staffing issues and supply shortages. In this case, Southwest reportedly blamed the mass cancellations on weather and air traffic control issues. Social media was generally unsympathetic to the company, and most thought there were other factors in the cancellations that the company was not acknowledging, from labor strikes to vaccine mandates and so on.
The Southwest debacle this weekend drew jeers, memes and outright condemnation. Some users even said they were becoming hesitant to rely on air travel at all. Here's a look at what Twitter had to say about Southwest's mass cancellations this weekend.
A leading candidate for Senate in my birth state. Backed by Peter Thiel $. pic.twitter.com/kPRZp5Hoj0— Jason Kint (@jason_kint) October 11, 2021
First and foremost, many people posted incorrect generalizations that these cancellations were caused by mass walk-outs and strikes from pilots and airline workers refusing to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Southwest denied this, as did the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association. It's also worth noting that other airlines have required their employees to be vaccinated for much longer than Southwest, and have not had any comparable delays.prevnext
You’re clearly lying to your customers. Acknowledge the pilots union striking is the main reason for cancellations. Southwest customer service has been spiraling downward dramatically the past year.— David Rendo (@DavidRendo1) October 10, 2021
Some of those commenters went so far as to call this weekend's delays an unofficial labor strike among Southwest Airlines workers, which does not seem to be the case. Still, the misinformation or disinformation spread quickly since critics simply accused the airline and the media of purposefully obscuring the truth in some kind of grand conspiracy.prevnext
Good call by Southwest to cancel flights out of Columbus, Ohio due to weather. As someone who just flew outta there I would never want anyone to suffer through the same 70 degree temperature with zero wind or rain that we faced. Thankful today for the bravery our pilots showed.— Jimmy Failla (@jimmyfailla) October 11, 2021
Praying for Southwest today. They are being forced to cancel thousands of flights due to weather conditions that only affect their airplanes and nobody else's. Very unique weather phenomenon.— Matt Walsh (@MattWalshBlog) October 11, 2021
As Southwest stuck to its claim that "weather" was delaying its flights, many sarcastic commenters described the weather in the areas where their flights were canceled. Most did not line up with the criteria to postpone takeoff.prevnext
Some speculated that the Southwest cancellations were being co-opted by disinformation campaigns, possibly using bots to promote anti-vaxx hashtags. To be clear, there is no data to support the claim that vaccine mandates are among the causes of this weekend's travel delays.prevnext
Whaaattt?!!! Are you asking people to make an effort to get to a real source of information rather than believing a hashtag or a FB feed?! What's next?! Asking them to use their brain 😂— Seb. Javeri (@sebjaveri) October 11, 2021
The FAA made several public statements that seemed like direct responses to Southwest Airlines, even if they didn't tag the airline directly. Some users were amused by the apparent feud.prevnext
I was thinking the same thing…— WeAREtheStorm❄ (@A_Big_Hell_NO) October 11, 2021
All they would say with a sickout is:
This is what it will look like when we all get COVID and can’t work, all because we didn’t want a shot!
Not a good business model.
Some critics pointed out that even if the "unofficial strike" narrative were true, it would not be sending the message of solidarity that proponents seem to think it would. Instead, it would read as a cautionary tale to the company about the risks of having unvaccinated staff members.prevnext
Some of the most prominent claims about an unofficial labor strike were based on fundamental misinterpretations of the reporting on the cancellations. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz was particularly guilty here, posting his claim along with an article that specifically refuted what he was saying. For information on the COVID-19 vaccines, visit the CDC's website.prev