Southwest Doesn’t Know How Many Pilots Unvaccinated Against COVID, Union President Says

Neither Southwest Airlines or the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association know what number of pilots stay unvaccinated towards COVID-19, in line with union president Casey Murray. The airline advised staff final week that they might be required to get the vaccine by December 8, leaving lower than two months to implement the requirement, the Associated Press reported.

Both the corporate and union haven’t stated how most of the airline’s staff missed work over the previous weekend, when Southwest canceled greater than 2,000 flights. The mass flight cancellations sparked unsubstantiated claims from some social media customers and politicians, together with Texas Senator Ted Cruz, that pilots and air site visitors controllers had both walked off their jobs or referred to as in sick to protest federal vaccination mandates.

Southwest stated that dangerous climate and air site visitors management points have been guilty for the cancellations, however declined together with the pilot’s union to say precisely what number of staff missed work, the AP reported. Southwest, the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association and Federal Aviation Administration have all denied there may be any fact to the theories that worker pushback was guilty for the weekend’s points.

For extra reporting from the Associated Press, see beneath.

Southwest Pilot Vaccination Numbers Unknown
Neither Southwest Airlines or the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association is aware of what number of pilots have been vaccinated towards COVID-19, in line with union president Casey Murray. Southwest passengers wait to verify in at Miami International Airport, Tuesday, October 12, 2021, in Miami.
Marta Lavandier/AP Photo

Still, Twitter posts claiming airline staff have been “standing up to medical tyranny” and taking part in a “mass sickout” amassed hundreds of shares. Vague and nameless messages on social media speculated that Southwest was hiding the actual motive for its disruptions. And anti-vaccine rallying cries comparable to #DoNotComply, #NoVaccineMandate and #MaintainTheLine have been among the many 10 hottest hashtags tweeted in connection to Southwest over the weekend, in line with a report from media intelligence agency Zignal Labs.

Even as flights seemed to be operating nearer to regular on Tuesday, the Texas-based airline remained on the middle of the most recent entrance within the vaccine mandate tradition warfare, its challenges exploited by opponents of vaccine necessities.

Neither the corporate nor its pilots’ union has supplied proof to again up their explanations for why practically 2,400 flights have been canceled from Saturday via Monday. Southwest has solely stated that dangerous climate and air site visitors management points in Florida on Friday triggered cascading failures wherein planes and pilots have been trapped out of place for his or her subsequent flight.

The disaster peaked on Sunday, when the airline canceled greater than 1,100 flights, or 30 p.c of its schedule. By Tuesday night, it had canceled fewer than 100 flights, or 2 p.c of its schedule, though greater than 1,000 flights have been delayed, in line with monitoring service FlightAware.

“When you get behind, it just takes several days to catch up,” CEO Gary Kelly stated Tuesday on CNBC. “We were significantly set behind on Friday.”

Southwest struggled all summer season with delays and cancellations. A senior government admitted to staff Sunday that the airline remains to be understaffed and would possibly want to scale back flights in November and December.

Meanwhile, hypothesis from distinguished Conservative politicians and pundits has flooded into the void. Many shared the unsubstantiated concept, however few supplied particulars, information or examples of staff strolling off the job to protest the vaccine.

“Joe Biden’s illegal vaccine mandate at work!” Cruz tweeted Sunday. “Suddenly, we’re short on pilots & air traffic controllers. #ThanksJoe.”

The Republican senator wrote in one other tweet Monday that he met final week with leaders of pilot unions who “expressed deep concern over the vaccine mandates.” A spokeswoman for Southwest pilots stated nobody on the union had talked to Cruz. A spokesperson for Cruz didn’t reply to emailed questions from The Associated Press about whether or not the Republican senator had any firsthand information of pilots or air site visitors controllers skipping work.

Republican U.S. Representative Andy Biggs of Arizona and U.S. Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin additionally posted the rumors on social media, with out providing proof.

Vague, familiar-looking “friend of a friend” tales are a harmful type of misinformation as a result of they “feel like insider information being shared by individuals directly involved in the action,” in line with Rachel Moran, a misinformation scholar on the University of Washington.

Similar unsupported claims circulated online in August, when social media customers falsely claimed that flight delays and cancellations out of Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport have been the results of vaccine mandates. In September, false web rumors swirled that 40 p.c of staff at protection contractor General Dynamics had declined the vaccine and threatened to give up.

Some Twitter customers linked Southwest’s flight issues to information that on Friday the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association had requested a federal choose in Dallas to dam the airline’s vaccine mandate. The union stated below federal labor legislation, Southwest should discount with the union earlier than making adjustments affecting working situations. The choose has not dominated but.

Asked on Tuesday to reply to claims that vaccine mandates have lowered the workforce and contributed to supply-chain disruptions, White House press secretary Jen Psaki took a jab at Cruz — sarcastically labeling him a “world-renowned business, travel and health expert” — earlier than defending Biden’s coverage.

“I know there was a little hubbub over the course of the last few days about Southwest Airlines,” Psaki stated. “We now know that some of those claims were absolutely false and actually the issues were completely unrelated to vaccine mandates.”

Biden’s order, which remains to be being finalized, would require employers with 100 or extra employees to get vaccinated or examined weekly for COVID-19. Airlines, nonetheless, are authorities contractors as a result of they carry out work comparable to emergency flights for the Defense Department that carried Afghanistan refugees to the U.S. in August. That makes airways topic to a more durable normal below the Biden order: obligatory vaccinations with no opt-out for getting examined.

While some workers at airways and different giant corporations have spoken out towards vaccine necessities, feedback on social media have created an exaggerated sense of the dissent, in line with Moran, the misinformation scholar on the University of Washington.

“In reality, it’s quite a small number of people who are protesting employment-based mandates for the vaccine,” Moran stated. “People are more vulnerable to misinformation in times of crisis, and these labor shortages and supply-chain delays either create a real sense of crisis or are manipulated by misinformation spreaders to make it appear like we are heading towards crisis.”

Southwest Airplane
Southwest Airlines seems to be fixing issues that precipitated the cancellation of practically 2,400 flights over the earlier three days. A Southwest Airlines jetliner taxis down a runway at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, Tuesday, October 12, 2021, in Cleveland.
Tony Dejak/AP Photo

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