Southwest Airlines Issues New Apology After Cancelling Thousands of Flights

by Jennifer Shea

Southwest Airlines has apologized anew for cancelling thousands of flights recently. The Dallas-based airline said the cancellations resulted from “weather and other external constraints which left aircraft and crews out of pre-planned positions.”

According to NBC News, by Monday, half of all Southwest Airlines flights were either canceled or delayed. Southwest continues to insist that its issues are not the result of protests by employees. Some had speculated that staffers were calling in sick over the airline’s recent announcement that it will mandate a COVID-19 vaccination.

Southwest Airlines passengers across the country began the week stranded thanks to Southwest’s ongoing cancellations and delays. They affected roughly 1,900 flights.

Both Southwest Airlines and Pilots’ Union Deny That This Is Result of Employee Protests

Southwest has repeatedly blamed the cancellations on weather and external factors. And even the Southwest pilots’ union shot down the suggestion that employees are protesting the vaccine mandate. However, the union did acknowledge that what is happening constitutes “a meltdown.”

“Our sick rates are right in line with where they were this summer,” Southwest Airlines Pilots Association President Casey Murray told NBC. “During an exact same situation, as far as, a meltdown.”

The pilots reportedly attribute the meltdown to old technologies, lean staff and an inadequate scheduling process. And pandemic-era buyouts are only making matters worse.

Problems Began This Past Weekend

The problem first cropped up over this past weekend. By Sunday, Southwest had canceled nearly 2,000 flights. Then it blamed bad weather and air traffic control issues.

Both the pilots’ union and the flight attendants’ union denied that employees were participating in any job actions over the weekend. Moreover, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said there had been no air traffic staffing shortages since Friday.

Meanwhile, he Southwest staffer who oversees daily flight operations blamed the canceled flights on the implementation of an FAA air traffic management program.

“We experienced significant impact in the Florida airports [Friday] evening after an FAA-imposed air traffic management program was implemented due to weather,” Alan Kasher wrote in a memo on Saturday, per CNBC. “[It] resulted in a large number of cancellations.”

The pilots’ union did point out that reports of fatigue have grown to triple their normal levels lately. It blamed staffing issues and inefficient scheduling. It also listed the recently-announced vaccine mandate as an “added distraction in the cockpit.”

Southwest Airline’s weekend problems have persisted this week in an apparent domino effect. Looks like the airline will have to address its problems somehow. It’s the only way to stave off a growing crowd of angry, canceled passengers.