TRAVEL TRENDING TOPICS

Southwest cancels hundreds more flights Monday amid vaccine mandate

Southwest Airlines canceled hundreds more flights Monday after the airline was forced to ground nearly 2,000 flights over the weekend, blaming the issues on weather and staffing amid speculation that the debacle is tied to the company’s recent COVID-19 vaccine mandate. 

The world’s largest low-cost carrier canceled almost 350 flights — or one in ten scheduled departures — as of Monday at 7 a.m. ET, according to data from Flight Aware. That marks the highest cancellation rate of any major US airline by far, according to the site.

More than 300 other Southwest flights were facing delays, the site’s data showed.

The airline’s latest woes come after it had to ground more than 25 percent of its scheduled flights on Sunday.

“We have a closer to normal operation today, navigating some new weather across our system,” a Southwest spokesperson said in a statement.

“Today’s operation has vastly improved from the weekend, with a much smaller number of cancellations linked to our recovery efforts.”

Passengers line up at the ticketing counter for Southwest Airlines flights at Eppley Airfield in Omaha, Nebraska on Oct. 10, 2021.
Passengers line up at the ticketing counter for Southwest Airlines flights at Eppley Airfield in Omaha, Nebraska on Oct. 10, 2021.

The mass cancelations and delays on the busy Columbus Day weekend come after the airline announced last week that it would require all of its employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine, as called for by President Biden earlier this year. Employees must get vaccinated before Dec. 8 or face termination. The Dallas, Texas-based airline has approximately 56,000 employees.

“The weekend challenges were not a result of Employee demonstrations,” the spokesperson said in an e-mailed statement, adding that weather issues in Florida led “displaced Crews and aircrafts.”

Passengers board a Southwest Airlines airplane at Hollywood Burbank Airport in Burbank, California, Oct. 10 amid hundreds of cancellations.

But the timing of the cancelations sparked speculation by travel industry insiders and politicians that the mandate could be exacerbating issues at the airline.

Henry H. Harteveldt, president of Atmosphere Research Group, told The Associated Press that Southwest’s issues could be tied to pilots engaging in a sickout protest against the airline’s mandate.

But Harteveldt also noted the airline has scheduled more flights than it could handle since June.

Texas senator Ted Cruz directly blamed Biden’s vaccine mandate.

Per: NYP

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