Countless airline passengers across the country were delayed or stranded over the weekend amid widespread cancelations of Southwest flights.
The Dallas-based airline cited bad weather and issues with air traffic control centers as among the “operational challenges” leading to more than 2,000 cancelations.
“Due to a number of issues”
According to the Washington Times, those excuses were met with skepticism as rumors swirled of a mass strike by workers upset over the company’s impending COVID-19 vaccine mandate for employees.
Of course, both the airline itself and the union representing its pilots have strenuously denied any such allegations.
The disruptions began just one day after the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association filed a federal lawsuit alleging a breach of contractual status quo with a series of pandemic-related mandates.
Nevertheless, Axios reported that the union was quick to refute any claim that a strike was to blame for the subsequent interruptions.
“SWAPA is aware of operational difficulties affecting Southwest Airlines today due to a number of issues, but we can say with confidence that our Pilots are not participating in any official or unofficial job actions,” the organization declared on Saturday.
“For a few hours Friday afternoon”
The union went on to declare that Southwest pilots “will continue to overcome SWA management’s poor planning, as well as any external operational challenges, and remain the most productive Pilots in the world.”
For its part, Southwest Airlines blamed “disruptive weather” and unspecified “issues” with air traffic control operations for the cancelations, though no other major airline saw similar disruptions. The Federal Aviation Administration, which oversees air traffic control centers, appeared to contradict Southwest’s narrative.
“No FAA air traffic staffing shortages have been reported since Friday,” said a spokesperson on Sunday. “Flight delays ad cancellations occurred for a few hours Friday afternoon due to widespread severe weather, military training, and limited staffing in one area of the Jacksonville Air Route Traffic Control Center.”
The FAA source went on to note that certain airlines “continue to experience scheduling challenges due to aircraft and crews being out of place.”
Regardless of the underlying causes, thousands of passengers saw their plans suddenly and unexpectedly upended, which is certainly not the kind of publicity Southwest Airlines wants.