The official statement from Southwest Airlines said their cancellations were caused by “weather” and air traffic control issues in Florida. Sure, a few of them might have been. But I don’t think all of them were.
The FAA has confirmed there was an issue at the Jacksonville Air Traffic Control Center, and yes, they were re-routing flights around some weather in the area.. but did it cause over 2,000 cancellations? Some will say, yes. But social media tells a different story.
According to Southwest, the cancellations were due to weather and ATC delays – which could happen. Southwest operates a large point-to-point network. One aircraft may fly, for example, Phoenix to Houston to Chicago to Baltimore to Nashville. Canceling that one aircraft would then cause four cancellations. However, in order to cause over 2,000 cancellations, many aircraft would have to be involved, and according to Southwest, they would have all had to have flown to been scheduled to be flown through or around Jacksonville, FL. That’s not likely.
A quick search on social media shows the possibility that a sickout of the airlines’ pilots was to blame. Many photos have surfaced of pilots holding up signage protesting the airline’s vaccine mandate. The photo being shared the most is a photo of a Gadsden flag with the words “Don’t Tread on Me” hanging from a flight deck window.
The pilots union for Southwest states that there was no “official or unofficial” work stoppage planned, but would they have known about a grass-roots movement? In my previous flight attendant career, I knew of many online “forums,” not sanctioned by the airline or the union, in which pilots talked about and discussed company-related issues, and planning a sickout would have likely been done in a disconnected setting.
Regardless of the reason thousands of paying passengers suffered. They slept in airports, got rerouted, lost money, time, and vacations. Because of Southwest Airlines’ official statement stating “weather” as the cause, passengers aren’t due overnight accommodations or food vouchers for the airport. Further, Southwest’s contract of carriage specifically states that they don’t cover costs associated with “work stoppages,” “strikes” or the lack of “labor” for your flight.
The best way to protect your trip is not to rely on the airline and would be to invest in a travel insurance plan that covers trip interruptions.