Southwest Airlines had to cancel or delay hundreds more flights on Sunday for the second consecutive day. This left thousands of passengers angry and stranded. The airline blamed bad weather and problems with air traffic control.
Many passengers were puzzled by Southwest's explanation and wondered why other airlines didn't experience similar problems. Some passengers wondered what Southwest meant by bad weather, given that it was sunny in many places of the United States on Saturday and Sunday.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), reported that there were no significant delays in air traffic control at any of its major hubs across the United States on Sunday. ATC delays were not reported on Saturday.
The rumors started quickly. Disrupted passengers, activists and activists used social media to accuse Southwest's vaccine mandate for the disruption that occurred over the weekend.
According to Flight Aware data, Southwest cancelled nearly 30% of its scheduled flights on Sunday. Additionally, 234 additional flights were delayed.
Southwest cancelled 462 flights Saturday and delayed 652 more services.
Southwest Airlines: The revolt starts
Many others shared the theory, speculating that the cancellations could have been caused by a protest by Southwests pilots against the federal vaccine mandate.
Gary Kelly, chief executive of Southwest, wrote Monday to workers to inform them that Southwest would adhere to President Biden's mandate for vaccines for government contractors. Or, workers will be terminated.
Southwest Airlines Pilots Association (SWAPA), which opposes the mandate, wants pilots to be able to choose whether or not they receive the COVID-19 vaccination. SWAPA filed a federal lawsuit on Friday seeking an injunction against this mandate.
Pilots are upset that Southwest made unilateral decisions about policies related to the pandemic. SWAPA believes that Southwest violates the Railway Labor Act by failing to consult and negotiate with the union about its pandemic policy.
Southwest has remained firm and said it disagrees with SWAPA's claim that Covid-related changes in the past few months need negotiation.
SWAPA was forced to deny that its pilots were staging a sickout. A spokesperson for the union said:
Our pilots will continue to outperform SWA managements' poor planning and any other operational challenges and be the most productive pilots around the globe.
Southwest claims that the weather disruption began on Friday and continued through the weekend. According to Southwest, the airline stated that it would reset its operations on Sunday and resume normal service as soon possible.