Unsupported “sick-out” claims escalate into Southwest plight

Texas News Today

DALLAS (AP) — When Southwest Airlines canceled more than 2,000 flights over the weekend due to bad weather and air traffic control issues, unsupported claims alleging vaccine liability began to spread.


what do you want to know

  • Neither the company nor the pilot union provided evidence to support an explanation for why about 2,400 flights were canceled between Saturday and Monday.
  • As of Tuesday evening, Southwest Airlines had canceled less than 100 flights, or 2% of the schedule, but more than 1,000 flights were delayed.
  • Senior management admitted to employees on Sunday that the airline still faces a staff crunch and may need to reduce flights in November and December.
  • Southwest Airlines told employees last week that vaccinations would be required by December 8.

Conservative politicians and experts, including Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz, have caused pilots and air traffic controllers to quit their jobs or call for sick people to protest federal vaccination requirements. Claimed that the flight was disrupted.

The airline, its pilots union and the Federal Aviation Administration have denied this.

“The weekend’s challenge was not a result of Southwest employees’ performance,” Southwest spokesman Chris Mainz said Monday.

Nevertheless, the Twitter post claimed that airline employees “suffered medical atrocities” and participated in “massive sick boycotts” and raised thousands of shares. A vaguely anonymous message on social media led to speculation that Southwest was hiding the real cause of the turmoil. According to a report by media intelligence firm ZignalLabs.T, anti-vaccine rally shouts like #DoNotComply, #NoVaccineMandate, and #HoldTheLine are among the 10 most popular hashtags tweeted in relation to Southwest over the weekend. Was.

Even as flights return to normal on Tuesday, Texas-based airlines remain at the center of the latest frontline of the vaccine-mandated culture war, a challenge being abused by opponents of vaccine requirements. I did

Neither the company nor the pilot union provided evidence to support an explanation for why about 2,400 flights were canceled between Saturday and Monday. Southwest Airlines just said that bad weather and air traffic control issues in Florida on Friday caused a cascading failure, causing planes and pilots to lose their positions for their next flight.

The crisis peaked on Sunday, when airlines canceled more than 1,100 flights, or 30% of the schedule. As of Tuesday evening, less than 100 flights were cancelled, or 2% of the schedule, but more than 1,000 were delayed, according to tracking service FlightAware.

“If you’re late, it’s going to take a few days to catch up,” CEO Gerry Kelly told CNBC on Tuesday. “It was quite late on Friday.”

Southwest struggled with delays and cancellations throughout the summer. Senior executives admitted to employees on Sunday that the airline still faces a staff crunch and may need to reduce flights in November and December.

Despite repeated requests, the company and the union declined to say how many employees did not work during the crisis. He said the absenteeism rate was similar to a typical summer weekend, but he did not give any numbers to support the argument. It is also unknown how many Southwest pilots have not been vaccinated.

Casey Murray, president of the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association, said:

Meanwhile, speculation from prominent conservative politicians and experts flooded the void. Many shared unfounded theories, but few provided details, facts or examples of employees who quit their jobs to protest the vaccine.

“Joe Biden’s Illegal Vaccine Liability Is Working!” Cruz tweeted on Sunday. “Suddenly there is a shortage of pilots and air traffic controllers. #Thank you Joe.”

A Republican senator wrote in another tweet on Monday that he met a pilot union leader who “expressed deep concern about vaccine obligations” last week. A Southwest Pilots spokesman said no one in the union was talking to Cruz. Cruz’s spokesman did not respond to an emailed query to the Associated Press about whether Republican senators had direct knowledge of leaving the pilot and air traffic controller jobs.

Republican Andy Biggs in Arizona and Senator Ron Johnson in Wisconsin also posted rumors on social media without showing evidence.

According to false alarm scholar Rachel Moran of the University of Washington, the vague and familiar story of “friends of friends” is alarming because “it appears that insider information is being shared by individuals who are directly involved in the action.” This is a false alarm of the form.

Similar unsupported claims spread online in August, and social media users falsely claimed that delays and cancellations of flights from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport were the result of vaccination mandates. In September, false Internet rumors spread that 40% of employees at General Dynamics, a defense industry contractor, refused the vaccine and threatened to leave.

Some Twitter users on Friday linked Southwest Airlines flight issues to news that the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association requested a federal judge in Dallas to block the airlines’ vaccination obligations. The union said under federal labor law that Southwest must negotiate with the union before making changes affecting working conditions. The judge has yet to pronounce the verdict.

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki attacked Cruz on Tuesday when asked to respond to allegations that mandatory vaccines reduced the workforce and contributed to supply chain disruptions. Before defending Biden’s policy.

“I know there’s been a bit of turmoil about Southwest Airlines over the past few days,” Pusaki said. “Some of these claims turned out to be completely false, and in fact the problem was not entirely related to vaccine obligations.”

Biden’s order is still pending and employers with more than 100 workers must be vaccinated or tested weekly for COVID-19. However, the airline is a government contractor as it performs tasks such as a Pentagon emergency flight to bring Afghan refugees to the United States in August. As a result, airlines are subject to strict standards under Biden’s orders. In other words, it is compulsory vaccination without opting-out to take the test.

Southwest Airlines told employees last week that it would need to have a vaccine headed by another airline by December 8.

According to Moran, a false alarm scholar at the University of Washington, some employees of airlines and other large corporations oppose the need for vaccines, but comments on social media create an exaggerated sense of dissatisfaction. There is.

“Indeed, very few people are opposed to the employment-based obligations of vaccines,” Moran said. “People are more vulnerable to false information during a crisis, and these labor shortages and supply chain delays create a real sense of crisis or make us look like we are heading towards a crisis. Manipulated by misinformation broadcaster. “

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