On Tuesday, Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly denied widespread rumors that mass cancellations at his airline over the past few days were the result of an internal protest over the Covid-19 vaccine mandate. He stated that although controversial, there was no evidence linking the mandate to the disruptions.
Gary Kelly, Southwest Airlines Co.'s chief executive officer, spoke during an interview in New York [+] York on Thursday, December 12, 2019. 2019 Bloomberg Finance LP
The Key Facts
Kelly spoke with ABCs Good Morning America and reiterated the company's explanation of recent days, namely that over 2,000 flight cancellations from Monday were due to a traffic management program enforced by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Because Southwest's fleet is more than half Florida-based, he said that Southwest was more affected than other airlines. This is because the FAA programs are targeted at this state. Kelly stated that it is normal for changes to take several days. However, things are almost back to normal now with only a few cancellations on Tuesday.
Kelly acknowledged that Southwest's vaccine mandate was controversial. I don't think that it is something that I would want for my company. He also stressed that the order comes from the federal government. We are doing our best to adhere to the deadlines.
There was speculation that Southwests employees protested the fast approaching November 24 vaccine mandate. Federal pressure has increased on Southwest to ensure that its employees are vaccinated. Otherwise, the company could lose lucrative contracts. The mandate has already sparked internal opposition. On Friday, the pilots union asked a court for a stay on Southwest's implementation of the mandate. The Southwest Airlines Pilots Association insists that cancellations are not due to vaccine-related protests. The union stated in a statement that they can confirm with confidence that the pilots of Southwest Airlines are not taking part in any unofficial or official job actions.
However, Republicans in Congress were quick to criticize Southwest but sided with its employees. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) immediately declared that the cancellations at the Dallas company were due to Joe Biden's illegal vaccine mandate.
Southwest Annulls More Than 1000 FlightsPilots Retorts Over Covid Vaccine Mandate
Shut them down: Southwest Airlines is attacked by Republicans, but employees are supported in protest against a rumored vaccine mandate (Forbes).