Southwest Airlines cancels 1,000 more flights as disruptions mount

Ted Cruz, R-Texas, took to Twitter late Sunday to speculate about Southwest Airlines decision to cancel more than 1,000 flights just days after its pilots’ union asked a court to block the company’s new COVID-19 vaccination mandate.

The airline has blamed the cancellations on “disruptive weather” and air traffic control issues. Some Twitter users were suspicious of the timing of the disruption, including the Texas Republican.

“Joe Biden’s illegal vaccine mandate a work!” Cruz tweeted. “Suddenly, we’re short on pilots & air traffic controllers.”

The airline announced last week that—due to the new rules from the Biden administration—its workers must be vaccinated against COVID-19 and have until Dec. 8 to be fully vaccinated. Workers are allowed to seek medical or religious exemptions.

Southwest Airlines, union insist pilots didn't walk out to protest vaccine  mandates

Southwest said it has to mandate vaccines because of new rules from the Biden administration requiring companies with federal contracts to have vaccinated staffs. Southwest’s work for the government includes flying the military in emergencies and carrying mail for the U.S. Postal Service.

Last week, rivals American Airlines, Alaska Airlines and JetBlue told their staff they need to be vaccinated. United Airlines, in August, was the first major airline to do so and has since said that more than 97% of its workers have been vaccinated. United also said it would put staff who couldn’t get the shots due to medical or religious reasons on unpaid leave until COVID-19 rates go down.

According to FlightAware, a website that tracks cancellations and delays, Southwest has canceled 1,018 flights and had 597 flights delayed on Sunday alone. On Saturday, the airline canceled 808 flights and had 1,187 flights delayed. 

Here’s what Donald Trump Jr. had to say on twitter

The Federal Aviation Administration added that a military training exercise and limited staffing at one control tower exacerbated the issue for a few hours on Friday, but that the problems did not cause the ripple effect into the weekend.

“Some airlines continue to experience scheduling challenges due to aircraft and crews being out of place,” the agency said Sunday. 

The weekend meltdown came just a day after the airline’s pilot union asked a court to block the company from carrying out President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate while a lawsuit over an alleged labor laws violation is disputed. The union argued the federal order violates the Railway Labor Act, which controls airline-union relations.

The previous week, Southwest had announced all employees must be vaccinated by November 24.

Headlines about the new rules and friction with its union prompted a handful of public figures to incorrectly suggest flight crews were calling out of work in an anti-vax protest.

“Joe Biden’s illegal vaccine mandate at work! Suddenly, we’re short on pilots & air traffic controllers,” Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican, tweeted Sunday.