Southwest Airlines was forced to cancel and delay thousands of flights over the weekend, and the company blamed poor weather conditions and a shortage of air traffic control staffing on the issues.
Southwest said in a Twitter statement on Saturday, “ATC issues and disruptive weather have resulted in a high volume of cancellations throughout the weekend while we work to recover our operation. We appreciate your patience as we accommodate affected customers, and customer service wait times are longer than usual.”
However, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) told Fox Business that the only staffing issue was on Friday and it was resolved by 10:00 pm. “No FAA air traffic staffing shortages have been reported since Friday,” an FAA spokesperson said. “Flight delays and cancellations occurred for a few hours Friday afternoon due to widespread severe weather, military training and limited staffing in one area of the Jacksonville Air Route Traffic Control Center.”
According to a “trusted source” of Tom Sauer’s, former Navy bomb squad and founder of Miramar Recovery for veterans, the air traffic control shortage in Jacksonville, Florida, was due to a planned walkout to protest the COVID-19 vaccine mandates.
Is there a media blackout on last night’s air traffic controller walkout in Jacksonville, FL?
Hundreds of flights canceled.
Walkout due to vax mandate
From a trusted source: pic.twitter.com/kCseQMZlal
— Tom Sauer 🇺🇸 ⚓️ 💣 (@thomasbsauer) October 9, 2021
On Saturday, Southwest canceled 808 flights (24% of all of its flights) and delayed 1,187 (36% of all of its flights). On Sunday, the airline showed 1,089 flights canceled (29% of all of its flights) and 963 delayed (26% of all of its flights) at the time of this writing.
Social media users circulated rumors that Southwest was short staffed as employees were protesting the company’s recent announcement that they would be complying with the edicts of Joe Biden regarding enforcing COVID-19 vaccine mandates for employees.
The @SouthwestAir mass cancellation/delay problem may be a mass sickout protesting the company forcing vahqseens on them.
See below. They blamed weather, but other carriers were unaffected? 🤔
— Chris Buskirk (@thechrisbuskirk) October 10, 2021
The Southwest Airlines Pilots Association said, “We can say with confidence that our Pilots are not participating in any official or unofficial job actions.”
“Our Pilots will continue to overcome SWA management’s poor planning, as well as any external operational challenges, and remain the most productive Pilots in the world.”
The association also said that pilot fatigue, which requires them to not fly, is currently triple the historic normal rates. “Make no mistake about it,” they said, “due to months of staffing issues and inefficient scheduling practices we have been operating at a higher than normal operational risk.
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“All of these challenges have led to an added distraction in the cockpit. This week’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate announcement by the Company only exacerbates the situation.”
The union has filed a lawsuit in Texas for a restraining order against the mandate.