Southwest Airlines and its pilot union refuted Republican claims that vaccine mandates were behind thousands of flight cancellations over the weekend, The New York Times reports.
More than 2,000 Southwest flights have been canceled and more than 1,400 others were delayed since Friday, similar to the airline’s issues in June.
The company said the cancellations were “primarily created by weather and other external constraints, which left aircraft and Crews out of pre-planned positions to operate our schedule on Saturday.”
“Unfortunately, the out-of-place aircraft and continued strain on our Crew resources created additional cancelations across our point-to-point network that cascaded throughout the weekend and into Monday,” the company said in a statement.
The company later said that it expects service to return close to normal by Tuesday.
GOP blames vaccinate mandates:
Republicans baselessly sought to blame President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate for the cancellations, which came just two days after the Southwest pilots’ union sued to temporarily block the company from implementing.
"Joe Biden's illegal vaccine mandate at work. Suddenly, we're short on pilots & air traffic controllers," Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said on Twitter, linking to an article quoting the airline refuting his claim as an "unfounded rumor" and "inaccurate."
Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert, and Texas Rep. Chip Roy all tied the issues to vaccine mandates as well.
“I stand with #Southwest Airlines employees who are fighting against these mandates,” tweeted Arizona Rep. Andy Biggs. “This isn’t about a vaccine, this is about freedom.”
Union says there was no strike:
Despite the GOP claims, the company and the pilots’ union denied that there was any action over vaccine mandates and both said the sick rate for pilots was the same as it has been.
"There are false claims of job actions by Southwest Pilots currently gaining traction on social media and making their way into mainstream news. I can say with certainty that there are no work slowdowns or sickouts either related to the recent mandatory vaccine mandate or otherwise," union president Casey Murray said in a statement on Sunday.
Southwest CEO Gary Kelly told CNBC the vaccine mandate had “zero” to do with the cancellations.
"Understand how airlines work," he said. "When you get behind, it just takes several days to catch up."
“To be clear: None of the information from Southwest, its pilots' union, or the FAA indicates that this weekend’s cancellations were related to vaccine mandates,” the FAA said on Twitter.