Published on October 10, 2021
Yesterday, mass chaos ensued for Southwest Airlines, with thousands of flights being canceled across the country. Passengers were left scrambling as refunds were denied and nonsensical excuses were presented.
The official story was that ATC “issues” and bad weather caused the meltdown, which hit
Jacksonville, FL especially hard. That rippled through flights elsewhere as planes were not able to make their connecting legs.
One look at the radar and airport delays, though, shows there was absolutely nothing weather-related anywhere in the country (where Southwest Airlines operates) that caused this, much less in sunny Jacksonville. Rather, it was some mix of an air traffic controller and pilot shortage due to pointless vaccine mandates driving the cancellations. That’s made obvious by the fact that other major US airlines saw cancellation rates over 10x lower during the same period.
Further, it’s been confirmed now that the mass “sickout” was a result of the vaccine mandates.
For context, Southwest Airlines has been in a running battle with its pilots’ union over a coming vaccine mandate. A lawsuit has now been filed alleging it is a violation of the collective bargaining agreement. According to one passenger, and many other accounts floating around on social media, that’s behind the walkout that saw the cancellation of over 1000 flights on Saturday.
To be as accurate as possible, though, how much of what transpired came from the ATC side of things vs. the pilot side of things is unclear. Given Southwest’s reported problems with its pilot union over the vaccine mandate, if yesterday wasn’t largely due to a pilot shortage, that’s probably only a temporary reprieve. You can expect strikes to occur as the mandate goes into effect in the next few weeks.
Further, while the details here are still murky about who is specifically to blame (aside from vaccine mandates in general), what is clear is that people are furious with Southwest Airlines. By blaming non-existent weather problems, they were able to avoid giving refunds or paying for layover expenses for those left stranded, many sitting on planes for hours.
That decision to not just be honest with its customers about the cause of the cancellations has hampered the reputation of what was once seen as the “different” airline. Yet, they aren’t operating any differently than their typically more loathed counterparts in the industry. This was all completely avoidable by using some common sense.
Lastly, these mandates are just so pointless. Vaccine mandates are only logical if only the unvaccinated can spread COVID. But since everyone can spread COVID, including the vaccinated, mandates make no sense. Rather, they’ve become a political point and companies have stupidly decided that it’s better to signal virtue than take care of their customers. The backlash to that is only going to get worse.