Southwest Airlines abruptly canceled at least 1,800 flights, leaving customers stranded. While the company blames weather conditions, the reasons remain unclear and speculation of an employee sick-out swirls.
Southwest Airlines abruptly canceled nearly 2,000 flights over the weekend. More than 1,000 flights were canceled on Sunday, following over 800 flights canceled on Saturday, the Washington Post reported. Another 1,500 flights had been delayed.
While Southwest blamed a number of issues, particularly weather, other providers did not experience similar delays. American Airlines, for example, had roughly 63 cancellations as of early Sunday afternoon, and United Airlines only had 9, the Washington Post reported on Sunday.
The total number of canceled flights by Southwest on Saturday and Sunday amounted to 27 percent of its scheduled flights, KRON 4 reported. Southwest is the nation’s largest domestic airline.
Although the company gave a number of reasons for the delays, such as issues with air traffic control and weather, not everyone is convinced.
“[Air Traffic Control] issues and disruptive weather have resulted in a high volume of cancellations throughout the weekend while we work to recover our operation,” Southwest Airlines tweeted on Saturday. “We appreciate your patience as we accommodate affected Customers, and Customer Service wait times are longer than usual.”
However, the reasons for the delays explained by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) did not match Southwest claims. The FAA confirmed some air traffic control (ATC) staffing and weather issues on Friday, but not Saturday, The Blaze reported.
The FAA tweeted: “No FAA air traffic staffing shortages have been reported since Friday.”
As the delay continued into a second day, speculation began to swirl around a possible “sick out” by Southwest Airlines employees.
According to tweets by some reporters, the delays were actually caused by “sick outs” from both federal and Southwest employees.
The mass flight cancellations began exactly one day after the Southwest Airlines Pilot’s Association filed a request in federal court to temporarily block a vaccine mandate, according to a report by The Blaze.
According to Southwest, its workers have until December 8 to get a vaccine or apply for a religious or medical exemption. Southwest must comply as required by a new federal vaccine mandate, which specifies that companies with US government contracts vaccinate all employees.
In response, the Southwest’s Pilot’s Union asked the court to temporarily block the mandate until an existing lawsuit is resolved over alleged US labor law violations, KRON4 reported.
The union issued a statement declaring that no “official or unofficial” work stoppage by pilots was taking place.
Some passengers stated that they “heard inside” that Southwest had a walkout due to the vaccine mandate, the Western Journal reported.