350 more cancellations frustrated Southwest Airlines passengers Monday after Southwest canceled more than 2,000 flights over the weekend. Monday’s cancellations represented 10 percent of Southwest’s schedule for the day. Another 1,400 flights, or about 40 percent of the Southwest schedule, were delayed. On Sunday, Southwest cancellations topped 1,000 flights, or 29 percent of its schedule. More than 800 flights were canceled Saturday.
“You can’t really relax when you’re just sitting there waiting for your next flight to be canceled,” passenger Vanessa Wheeler said.
According to Wheeler, Southwest canceled six consecutive flights on her over three days.
Southwest has blamed the cancellations on bad weather and traffic control issues. However, the president of the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association blamed the cancellations on Southwest’s operation as a whole. Casey Murray described the operation as “brittle”, saying it “cracks under the slightest pressure”.
The union also argued Southwest has been too slow to bring pilots back once airline travel picked back up. In a video for employees, Southwest Chief Operating Officer Mike Van de Ven said despite “a very aggressive hiring plan…we are still not where we want to be with staffing”. This is especially the case among pilots.
The cancellations also came on the back of the Southwest union asking a federal court on Friday to block the airline’s order that all employees get vaccinated.
“We are not anti-vaccination at all, but our pilots are extremely worried about how their medicals are going to be handled,” Murray said.
The union argued Southwest must negotiate over the issue because it could involve sick leave or disability if pilots have a reaction to the vaccine.
Despite the request and the cancellations happening so close together, Murray said Southwest pilots were not staging a sickout due to the vaccine mandate. Southwest spokeswoman Brandy King confirmed this, saying there was no evidence that would indicate the disruptions were caused by any sort of employee protest over vaccinations.
Southwest has struggled all summer with high numbers of delayed and canceled flights. In August, it announced it was trimming 27 flights a day from its September schedule and 162 flights a day from early October through Nov. 5.