Over the weekend and into Monday, Southwest Airlines was forced to cancel a number of flights due to air traffic control issues and inclement weather. In true Trump supporter fashion, a random tweet that admitted it didn’t know if the rumors were true became gospel truth because it criticized the right’s hated policy of the moment: vaccine mandates.
“I want to apologize to all of our customers. This is not what we want but unfortunately it just takes a couple of days to get things back on track."
— Good Morning America (@GMA) October 12, 2021
In an Instagram post which began with “Saw this come in from someone in the US. Not sure if it’s true or not,” went on to claim that:
‘They (Southwest Airlines) told their pilots and flight attendants they had until November to get jabbed. So now they have to use all their banked vacation and personal time, or lose it.’
Everyone from Trump supporting social media users, right wing media figures like Mike Cernovitch, to elected officials to the federal government – Ted Cruz, Lauren Boebert, Andy Biggs, etc. – jumped at the chance to criticize the lack of freedom in being forced to comply with company policy in a way that’s been legal for years at myriad companies across the country. However, Southwest Airlines said that the vaccine mandates had absolutely nothing to do with issues facing that one airline.
The company said that there was no evidence to suggest that any “sickout” had happened. According to NBC News:
‘We experienced weather challenges in our Florida airports at the beginning of the weekend, challenges that were compounded by unexpected air traffic control issues in the same region, triggering delays and prompting significant cancellations for us beginning Friday evening. With fewer frequencies between cities in our current schedule, recovering during operational challenges is more difficult and prolonged.’
Conservative figures and politicians opposing vaccine mandates are using the recent flight cancellations by Southwest Airlines to push their agenda, but both the airline and pilots unions have said that had nothing to do with it. #SouthwestEmployees https://t.co/9vdVEXgUct
— Amee Vanderpool (@girlsreallyrule) October 12, 2021
In fact, on Tuesday morning, the CEO of Southwest Airlines appeared on Good Morning America and told George Stephanopolous that the claim lacked any evidence at all. His fact-check makes sense considering that the vaccine mandate is a federal mandate and yet only one airline had these issues over the weekend and on Monday.
‘There’s just no evidence of that. Our people are working very hard. I’m very proud of them, especially when we get into a difficult situation like this, they’re also delayed. They’re also ending up in places they didn’t expect … our people are doing a phenomenal job.’
Both Southwest Airlines and the union representing its pilots say that crew members did NOT call out of work sick to protest vaccine mandates. https://t.co/ByrqkNlGyP
— Jon Cooper 🇺🇸 (@joncoopertweets) October 12, 2021
On Sunday, Ted Cruz tweeted that “Joe Biden’s illegal vaccine mandate at work!” he tweeted. “Suddenly, we’re short on pilots & air traffic controllers.” The author of the article he cited asked where he got that information and he insisted that it was in the article she wrote. However, he ignored much of the article, which said that vaccine mandates had exacerbated anxiety among employees but that weather and air traffic control issues were responsible for the airline’s weekend issues.
The FAA was quoted in that article from CNBC, who said that:
‘No FAA air traffic staffing shortages have been reported since Friday. Some airlines continue to experience scheduling challenges due to aircraft and crews being out of place. Please contact the airlines for details about current flight schedules
Ted Cruz & Co. Promote Nonexistent Anti-Vax Airline 'Strike' | By Adam Rawnsley https://t.co/t2NHREspF8
— SafetyPin-Daily (@SafetyPinDaily) October 12, 2021