JACKSONVILLE, FL – Wildly conflicting reports out of Florida over the weekend have nonetheless came to the same result; over 1,900 Southwest Airlines flights out of Jacksonville were postponed or cancelled on Saturday and Sunday, either due to inclement weather and staffing shortages, or – according to other accounts – a mass walk-out of employees protesting federal COVID-19 vaccine mandates.
Southwest Airlines officially blamed the issue on unspecified weather and staffing issues at Bradley Airport, issuing a brief statement on Twitter apologizing for the delays and suggesting that inconvenienced passengers explore self-service rebooking options via their website.
“ATC issues and disruptive weather have resulted in a high volume of cancellations throughout the weekend while we work to recover our operation,” they said. “We appreciate your patience as we accommodate affected Customers, and Customer Service wait times are longer than usual. If your travel was affected, please explore self-service rebooking options by checking your flight status on southwest.com.”
But other unverified reports indicate that the problem may have actually been due to a “sick-out” conducted by air traffic controllers and other airline employees due to a federally-mandated COVID-19 vaccination requirement that officially reached its deadline on October 4.
The Southwest Airlines Pilots Association – the union representing pilots which is currently suing to put a halt to the vaccine mandate until a lawsuit is resolved – denied reports of any walkouts, instead issuing a statement that it “has not authorized, and will not condone, any job action” and instead noted that “[Southwest Airlines] has become brittle and subject to massive failures under the slightest pressure” due to a lack of company support and the “already strained relationship” between Southwest and the union.
In addition, the Federal Aviation Administration stated via a tweet that the organization had not received any reports of staffing shortages since Friday.
However, some are saying that such a massive amount of delays and cancellations within the span of a single weekend are highly unusual not easily explained away with the vague statements that have been issued by Southwest Airlines thus far.