Vaccine mandate blamed for mass flight cancellations
'The pilots themselves have been blaming mandatory COVID vaccines for the reasons that so many have decided to retire'
December 29, 2022|
While media outlets are citing severe weather storms as the cause of recent mass flight cancellations and delays, others are saying there is more to the story.
Southwest Airlines came under heavy fire this week after accounting for 70% of US flight cancellations, calling off 5,500 flights on Monday and Tuesday, in addition to many delays. The airline blamed the weather for the havoc.
“With consecutive days of extreme winter weather across our network behind us, continuing challenges are impacting our Customers and Employees in a significant way that is unacceptable. And our heartfelt apologies for this are just beginning,” Southwest said in a statement Tuesday.
But some are not accepting the airline’s explanation, especially since its competitors have reported cancelling only about 2% of their flights.
Southwest CEO Bob Jordan called on employees to “get it together" after the US Department of Transportation (USDOT) warned it will be investigating the airline.
“USDOT is concerned by Southwest’s unacceptable rate of cancellations and delays & reports of lack of prompt customer service,” the department tweeted Tuesday. “The Department will examine whether cancellations were controllable and if Southwest is complying with its customer service plan.”
Flight blogger The Points Guy said Southwest pilots and flight attendants have been struggling with operational and staffing issues.
“Staffing and technology problems combined to send the carrier on a downward spiral,” he wrote.
But others, like Daily Caller Editorial Director Vince Coglianese, point to another possible cause.
“This is an airline that received $3 billion from the American taxpayer in order to stay in business throughout the pandemic and then in the end offered pilots buyouts as more and more pilots retired creating the kind of shortages that lead to this very tight travel crunch that we are seeing now,” Coglianese told Fox News Wednesday.
“The pilots themselves have been blaming mandatory COVID vaccines for the reasons that so many have decided to retire. Trouble with recruitment to get pilots in. The government is concerned those COVID vaccine mandates have created shortages in the military, which is a feeding system into the commercial airline industry. They need military pilots to become commercial pilots. That’s happening less and less frequently these days.”
Last year, a group of pilots tried blocking Southwest from imposing a vaccine mandate on employees, but a judge ruled the airline was within its authority.
But while an appeals court recently tore down Joe Biden's vaccine mandate for federal contractors, which include Southwest, some airlines continue to require it.
JetBlue, for example, would sooner hire a violent felon on probation to pilot a plane than someone who refused the COVID-19 injections, the airline’s policy suggests.
Despite there being no federal vaccine mandate for aircraft pilots or crew, JetBlue’s job applications state that pilots must be vaccinated in order to be employed by the airline.