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The top Southwest Airlines executive says operations “are quite back to normal” on Tuesday after the company was forced to cancel more than 2,300 flights over the holiday weekend, which it says was the result of problems with air traffic control personnel in Florida.
Southwest CEO Gary Kelly apologized to frustrated passengers during an appearance on Good Morning America Tuesday, though he denied the chaos was caused by pilots upset by the vaccine’s mandate.
As of 9 a.m. ET Tuesday, Southwest had canceled 87 flights, or 2 percent of its daily operations, and delayed more than 240, according to tracking service FlightAware.
The Federal Aviation Administration acknowledged delays in part of Florida on Friday, but rejected Southwest’s air traffic control explanation.
“He just left the airline behind on Friday,” Kelly told GMA.
The FAA said Sunday that “some airlines” were experiencing problems due to planes and crews being out of position.wikipedia
Southwest was the only airline to report such a high percentage of canceled and delayed flights over the weekend. American Airlines canceled only 63 flights as of Sunday, while United Airlines had only nine cancellations.
When asked why his competitors weren’t facing the same issues, Kelly said his airline was particularly hit by delays in Florida over the weekend because, unlike other airlines, “more than half of our fleet touches the state of Florida “.
“We have a system of linear routes. We are just different, “Kelly told GMA.
Tucker Carlson claimed Monday night that the Southwest Airlines
Tucker Carlson claimed Monday night that the Southwest Airlines chaos over the weekend was caused by the pilots’ strike in protest against mandatory COVID-19 vaccines.
Carlson insisted Monday night that the airline was lying.
“This is all a lie, it’s not what happened,” he said.
“We have spoken with several people with direct knowledge of what really happened.
“We can tell you that the closure of Southwest Airlines over the weekend was a direct consequence, it was a reaction to Joe Biden’s vaccination mandates.”
Carlson praised the alleged strikers for upholding their beliefs.
Joshua Yoder, co-founder of US Freedom Flyers, told Carlson that he and other pilots should not be forced to submit to an “illegal” mandate. It is not clear which company Yoder works for.
“My reason for resisting is primarily religious for me,” Yoder told Fox News. Among my friends I saw a need. Many of us don’t want to take [the COVID-19 vaccine].
‘People were being coerced, I believe in freedom and I am here to support the freedom of my co-workers and of all the people in this country.
“I am not going to accept a mandate, they are not going to force me to do something in which I do not believe.”
Carlson’s comments echo those of Republicans like Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who tweeted: ‘Joe Biden’s Illegal Vaccine Mandate in Action! Suddenly, we are missing pilots and air traffic controllers. ‘
Donald Trump Jr said: ‘The fact that thousands of Southwest employees left work protesting the COVID vaccine mandate that forces the airline to cancel more than 1000 flights is not getting enough attention.
“The media will make sure you don’t see it, but keep watching, it won’t be the last protest!”
And Andy Biggs, a congressman from Arizona, tweeted: ‘I stand with #Southwest Airlines employees fighting these mandates.
Casey Murray, pilots association president, said: ‘I can say with certainty that there are no work delays or sickness failures related to the recent mandatory vaccination mandate or otherwise.’
“This is not about a vaccine, it is about freedom.”
Both the airline and the unions insisted that Carlson and the Republicans were wrong.
The widespread outages began shortly after the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association, which represents 9,000 pilots, asked a federal court on Friday to block the airline’s order that all employees be vaccinated.
The union argued that Southwest should negotiate on the issue because it could involve sick leave or disability if pilots have a reaction to the vaccine.
“We are not against vaccination at all, but our pilots are extremely concerned about how their doctors will handle themselves” if they cannot fly, union president Casey Murray told The Associated Press.
Murray said the pilots had not organized a sick leave due to the vaccine’s mandate.
Instead, he blamed the chaos of the past few days on the Southwest operation, which he said has become “fragile” and “cracks under the slightest pressure.”
He said the airline uses outdated crew scheduling technology that leads to cascading outages when flights are canceled on one part of its network.
The Southwest and American unions have also argued that the administration has been too slow for pilots to return from licenses that airlines persuaded them to take during the pandemic, leaving them understaffed.
Southwest spokeswoman Brandy King said there is no evidence to indicate the outages were caused by any type of employee outcry over the vaccines.
Some passengers were frustrated not only by the flight delays, but also by the lack of a clear reason for them.
“My concern is that we didn’t have any explanation that was, in my opinion, very legitimate or credible,” said Brian Gesch of Cedar Grove, Wisconsin, who was traveling through Reagan Washington National Airport with his wife.
He doubted the real problem was the weather and air traffic controllers.
“So we are frustrated and we are missing a day of work.”
Others were only concerned about getting home, in whatever way they could.
Kent Moddelmog ended up driving 700 miles with his 14-year-old son from Phoenix to Dublin, California, after Southwest canceled their flight and couldn’t find a flight on a competing airline that wasn’t exorbitantly priced.
‘I wasn’t going to drop $3,000 to get back,’ Moddelmog said.
The sales director for a consulting company said he flies Southwest dozens of times a year but had ‘never been in a situation like that.’
Savanthi Syth, an airlines analyst for Raymond James, said the weekend problems will increase Southwest’s costs and worsen the company’s strained relations with unions.
Southwest has struggled all summer with a large number of delayed and canceled flights.
In August, it announced that it was cutting its September schedule by 27 flights a day, or less than 1 percent, and 162 flights a day, or 4.5 percent of the schedule, from early October to November 5.
The White House has lobbied airlines to adopt vaccine mandates because they are federal contractors: The Defense Department pays them to operate flights, including those that brought Afghan refugees to the United States this summer.
United Airlines was the first major US airline to announce a vaccination requirement.
Southwest was silent even after President Joe Biden announced his order for federal contractors and large employers.
Finally, last week, Southwest told employees that they must be fully vaccinated by Dec. 8 to keep their jobs.
Workers can request to skip vaccinations for medical or religious reasons.
Gary Kelly Quick and Facts
- Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly said his company’s operations were returning ‘back to normal’ on Tuesday
- As of 9am Eastern Time on Tuesday, Southwest cancelled 87 flights and delayed more than 240
- Southwest canceled nearly 2,000 flights over the weekend and an additional 350 flights on Monday
- The airline blamed the chaos on bad weather and staffing issues at air traffic control in Florida airports
- FAA acknowledged delays in Florida but pushed back against Southwest’s air traffic control explanation
- Kelly said airline was particularly affected by delays in Florida since ‘over half of our fleet touches the state’
- He denied that pilots staged a walkout to protest the company’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate
- Fox News host Tucker Carlson accused the airline of lying, saying that cancellations were to protest mandate
- Joshua Yoder, an airline pilot who works for an unspecified company, said he and other pilots should not be forced to submit to an ‘illegal’ mandate