You are not free to move about the country. No one has been since the coronavirus restrictions began. But now major airlines are piling on travel challenges above and beyond the government mandates. Beginning Friday, Southwest Airlines cancelled over 1,800 flights, leaving thousands of passengers stranded around the country. For perspective, Southwest flies approximately 3,300 flights per day; they cancelled 27 percent of their scheduled flights on Sunday alone.
In a statement, the airline tried to blame the massive outage on weather. "On Friday evening, the airline ended the day with numerous cancellations, primarily created by weather and other external constraints." The bad weather was in Florida, according to another statement. The statement explained the cancellations "left aircraft and Crews out of pre-planned positions." In turn, "the out-of-place aircraft and continued strain on our Crew resources created additional cancelations" which cascaded.
But many aren't buying Southwest's story; too many details don't add up. For instance, it's curious that weather would affect only one airline so heavily. "American, Spirit, United, and Delta combined total of about 104 flights canceled over the same period," said Congressman Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.). Or, if minor weather cancellations generate outsized impacts, why don't hurricanes or blizzards routinely cripple national air travel?
From the "timeline of a couple of key events, you can draw a different conclusion," said Washington Times opinion editor Cheryl Chumley. "The more plausible reason," she wrote, "is that scores of pilots refused to fly because of COVID-19 vaccine mandates." An anonymous Southwest employee estimated that nearly 50 percent of Southwest pilots remain unvaccinated. When they learned last week that the airline would require all staff to be vaccinated by December 8, the Southwest Airlines Pilot Associations (SWAPA), which represents 10,000 of the megacorporation's pilots, amended their lawsuit to temporarily block the airline's coronavirus vaccine mandate from taking effect.
SWAPA said employees were calling in sick at three times the historic norm but denied that pilots were coordinating an "official or unofficial" sick-out. The airline also insisted that "the operational challenges were not a result of Southwest Employee demonstrations." But it's hard to believe that, by sheer coincidence, 32 out of 35 Southwest employees in Jacksonville didn't show up for work on Friday, or that "almost every flight out of Orlando was cancelled" by a few brief showers on Friday afternoon. Though the pilots union may not publicly acknowledge what they're doing, Chumley said on "Washington Watch", "we should be thankful for these pilots taking a strong stand for individual rights over government overreach and employer mandates."
The fault lies with both the government and private corporations. Southwest CEO Gary Kelly insisted his hands were tied by President Biden's executive order requiring "all federal contractors, which covers all the major airlines... to have a mandate vaccine in place by Dec. 8." But Governor Abbott recently banned private employers in Texas, where Southwest Airlines is headquartered, from instituting vaccine mandates, so the business at least has a choice in who to obey. The Biden administration's executive orders are simply providing cover for corporate leaders to enact the heavy-handed mandates they desire anyways. Biggs said businesses "doing the dirty work for the government... instead of fighting it" is "proto-fascist."
Not every Southwest pilot is staying silent; one apparently hung the Gadsden flag from his cockpit window. Biggs said the pilots may have launched a larger movement. "You're going to see more and more employees reject this unconstitutional infringement on their liberty," he said. Illegal vaccine mandates can survive as long as we, the people, comply with them.