Southwest CEO: ‘No evidence’ flight cancelations related to vaccine mandates
The CEO of Southwest Airlines said early Tuesday that there is “no evidence” of correlation between the company’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for employees and a string of recent cancellations that left travelers stranded across the country over the weekend.
“There’s just no evidence of that,” CEO Gary Kelly said during an appearance on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
“Our people are working very hard. I’m very proud of them, especially when we get into a difficult situation like this, they’re also delayed,” he added. “They’re also ending up in places they didn’t expect … our people are doing a phenomenal job.”
Kelly acknowledged the company’s vaccine requirement “is controversial” and “not anything I wish for our company,” before noting the airline implemented the policy after an order from President Biden.
“We’re doing our best to comply with the that based on the deadlines that have been set,” Kelly said.
“I want to apologize to all of our customers. This is not what we want but unfortunately it just takes a couple of days to get things back on track.”
— Good Morning America (@GMA) October 12, 2021
The Southwest Airlines Pilots Association has also asserted that the cancellations were not caused by any vaccine-related protests, as some had suggested.
“We can say with confidence that our pilots are not participating in any official or unofficial job actions,” the union said in a statement. “Our 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.”
Southwest canceled nearly 2,000 flights over the weekend, blaming air traffic control issues and bad weather in the Southeast.
“We experienced weather challenges in our Florida airports at the beginning of the weekend, challenges that were compounded by unexpected air traffic control issues in the same region, triggering delays and prompting significant cancellations for us beginning Friday evening,” the company said. “With fewer frequencies between cities in our current schedule, recovering during operational challenges is more difficult and prolonged.”
In a memo to employees on Sunday, Alan Kasher, Southwest’s executive vice president of daily operations, apologized for the massive standstill.
“I know this is incredibly difficult for all of you, and our customers are not happy,” Kasher said before adding that operations “seem to be on track for a reset so that Monday is more normal.”