The slew of Southwest Airlines flight cancellations continues, and the president of the company's pilots' union has a good idea of why. Southwest Airlines Pilots Association President Capt. Casey Murray told CBS News that the airline's pilots were not staging a protest about the new COVID-19 vaccine mandate — officially or unofficially. Instead, he said that Southwest's management was to blame.
Southwest will soon begin requiring employees to get a coronavirus vaccine in order to show up to work if they don't have one already, and some reports falsely claim that a large portion of employees are refusing. Many anti-vaccine pundits are claiming that Southwest pilots and flight attendants called in sick this weekend rather as an unofficial labor strike, implicitly protesting the vaccine mandate. Murray said that that is not the case and that the number of call-outs within his union doesn't support this claim at all.
Murray told CBS News that the sick rate among Southwest Airlines pilots this weekend was "right in line with what was occurring this summer." He continued: "So outside of air traffic control and weather, you point the blame squarely where? Squarely on Southwest, I point to how they manage the network and how their I.T. also supports that network."
"Once a little hiccup occurs due to the internal processes, our pilots aren't getting to where they need to be. We've been sounding this alarm for about four years and have seen very little approach to correcting it," Murray concluded. So far, Southwest has declined to comment on Murrays claim. The company has been blaming air traffic control issues and weather issues for their delays all weekend, but the FAA has refuted that claim publicly. Other airlines have not had similar problems.
Southwest has reportedly now confirmed some staffing shortages, but not because of the vaccine mandate. It reiterated its claim about air traffic control and weather on Tuesday as the cancellations continued.
Southwest Airlines has canceled over 2,000 flights since Friday, with some customers asked to wait days to get their trips rescheduled. The company canceled at least 7 percent of its flights on Tuesday, so the issue may be improving but not going away. Furious customers are still flooding the company's comment sections on social media.