Judge rules Southwest can order pilots to be vaccinated against COVID-19

Judge rules Southwest can order pilots to be vaccinated against COVID-19
© Greg Nash

A judge ruled Southwest Airlines can order its pilots to be vaccinated against COVID-19 after the union tried to get a restraining order on the policy.

The Southwest Airlines Pilots Association took the company to court, saying it needs to negotiate the coronavirus vaccine requirement in the collective bargaining agreement, The Dallas Morning News reported

U.S. District Judge Barbara Lynn ruled against the temporary restraining order, saying Southwest Airlines is fulfilling its obligation under the collective bargaining agreement to provide a safe work environment.

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The vaccine requirement will “likewise improve the safety of air transportation, the efficiency of Southwest’s operations, and further the [collective bargaining agreement] goal of safe and reasonable working conditions for pilots,” the judge wrote in her ruling, according to the local outlet. 

The company required its employees to get the vaccine after the Biden administration said companies with more than 100 employees had to mandate the vaccine or face repercussions.

Employees at Southwest Airlines need to get an exemption or provide proof of vaccination by Nov. 24.

The push against the mandate comes as the company lost $75 million in October due to air control issues, staffing shortages and weather delays. 

The company said it will cut flights back in December to avoid the mass cancellations they endured in October. 

"We have reined in our capacity plans to adjust to the current staffing environment, and our ontime performance has improved, accordingly,” CEO Gary Kelly said. “We are aggressively hiring to a goal of approximately 5,000 new employees by the end of this year, and we are currently more than halfway toward that goal.”