Southwest has canceled thousands of flights, causing chaos at airports across the country
From Los Angeles to Miami, Dallas to Denver, more than 2,000 Southwest customers ruined weekend travel plans. The airline canceled another 10% of flights on Monday.
It is not clear what caused the turmoil because the airline and its pilots tell different stories. Delays and cancellations began shortly after the pilots’ union attempted to block the new Southwest COVID-19 Vaccine Authorization.
Queues were long and a little furious at airports in several cities, with passengers having to wait hours and, in some cases, days to rebook on other flights.
On Monday, the company offered a “massive apology” to customers and employees, citing weather and outdoor restrictions.
Captain Cassie Murray, president of the Southwest Airmen’s Association, insists the unrest was not due to pilots protesting the suspended vaccine mandate. He told CBS News that the rate of pilot sickness this weekend is “quite in line with what has been happening this summer.”
But Murray acknowledged that the union is suing the airline for its policy.
“The problem hasn’t come together for months and is addressing these insurance-related issues – and it’s addressing our pilot medical clinics,” he said. “All the airlines have the same problems we have today, but they have mitigated them with agreements, and they are a lot further away from where we are now.”
Southwest stood out among the airlines because other airlines didn’t have anywhere close to the cancellation rate.
“We have a temporary restraining order trying to get them to stop the authorization so we can sit down and discuss and provide some support to our pilots so they can understand and make a decision to get vaccinated with that understanding behind them,” Murray added.
Some stranded passengers hit the road back home.
Julianne Mattox attended a wedding in Austin, Texas, with two of her friends. Before Southwest canceled Sunday’s flight to Washington, D.C., offering Wednesday instead.
“The general consensus among everyone was that it was easier to rent a car and get out of town to start moving, than to wait until Tuesday or Wednesday for a potential flight,” she said.
The trio made it safely home, after spending 25 hours driving 1,500 miles.
Murray said the union is currently negotiating with Southwest the mandate for the next vaccine, and expects to eventually find a workable solution.
But he said he wasn’t sure if that would happen by the December 8 deadline — perhaps not before Thanksgiving.