Southwest Airlines has canceled more than 2,000 flights since Friday, which is about a third of its schedule over the long weekend. The disruptions have left tens of thousands of passengers stranded and the carrier’s operations continue to catch up. In addition to the usual agony of consumers and social media collapse As it inspired, there’s a bizarre twist: The plight in the Southwest has become a talking point for conservative commentators and politicians in their campaign against vaccination mandates. It would be crazy if there was any truth to a warrant causing these issues (spoiler: it wasn’t), but what actually happens could be even more unnerving. Fasten your own seat belt before you put on the others, and I’ll explain what happens.
What is the cause of these flight cancellations?
According to Southwest, weather and air traffic control snafus began blocking a number of flights on Friday. (The Federal Aviation Administration has confirmed that a shortage of personnel at an air traffic control center, weather, and military training drills resulted in cancellations and delays, but only for a few hours.) This first wave of ‘cancellations, Southwest said, disrupted their entire system. preventing planes and crews from being in the right place at the right time on schedule. There was then a cascading effect in which other flights also had to be canceled due to these piling up manpower and aircraft issues. Southwest is also still trying to revive its operations after making cuts during the height of the pandemic, which has also affected its ability to absorb the initial shock of canceled flights.
Weft. Does this happen to other airlines?
It does not appear to be so much an aviation problem as it is a Southwest problem; other airlines were able to continue with minimal cancellations after Friday’s disruptions. In recent times, Southwest has generally struggled to coordinate its operations; it had the highest percentage of cancellations and the worst on-time performance among the country’s four major airlines in June and July. The South West Pilots Union further accused the company’s technical systems and processes of reassigning pilots in the event of disruptions, saying these were long-standing issues that executives had not addressed. For years. The airline has struggled to reroute pilots in part because it uses a âpoint-to-pointâ system, which focuses on transporting passengers directly to their destinations. This contrasts with the âhub-and-spokeâ model used by American Airlines, in which passengers are often first routed to a main base of operations before departing for their final destination. While the point-to-point system has the advantage of reducing journey times and the number of connecting flights, it can be difficult to adapt to unexpected situations. Southwest’s point-to-point network also covers an unusually large geographic area, making pilot reassignment even more complicated.
It looks like a mess. What is the right angle?
Southwest Airlines has set a COVID-19 vaccination deadline of October 4 for its employees. The airline established this policy in order to comply with a new federal requirement that government contractors, like Southwest, must enforce vaccination mandates. The Southwest Pilots Union has filed a petition in a Dallas federal court to temporarily block the company’s mandate on the grounds that it allegedly violates employment law. The ensuing cancellation debacle led Conservatives to speculate that staff like pilots and air traffic controllers were calling in sick and going out to protest the warrant. They have used this theory as a club to reduce the Biden administration’s vaccine requirements, insinuating that it is hurting the economy. Texas Senator Ted Cruz tweeted that “Joe Biden’s illegal vaccine warrant” resulted in a shortage of “pilots and air traffic controllers.” Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson identified himself in a tweet as a “loyal Southwestern customer” and urged the company to “stop the madness before more damage is done.” The conservative media also pushed the narrative, with Fox News’ Tucker Carlson saying the cancellations were “a direct result” of Biden’s policies.
Is there any evidence to support these claims?
Based on publicly available information at the moment, Southwest’s vaccine mandate appears to have little to do with cancellations. The FAA announced that there had been no shortage of personnel for air traffic since Friday. Even the folks in the Southwest who are opposed to vaccination warrants in general say the new policy was not to blame for the dismay. In an interview on CNBC Tuesday, Southwest CEO Gary Kelly criticized Biden for forcing private companies to establish mandates, but said nonetheless: “That is not what was at issue with Southwest this weekend. end. ” The Pilots Union, which is suing Southwest for the term, has pushed back speculation about a walkout protest. Union president Casey Murray told CBS News the pilot sickness rate over the weekend was in line with what the company has experienced over the summer. Southwest is also not the only airline to face an internal setback for its tenure. Hundreds of employees protested American Airlines’ vaccine requirements at the company’s Texas headquarters last week. Still, American only had a 2% cancellation rate on Sunday, while Southwest was 30%.
How long should this problem last?
Operations appear to be returning to normal to some extent. The airline canceled just 87 (or about 2%) of its flights on Tuesday, a marked improvement from this weekend but even worse than most other U.S. airlines. To prevent this from happening again, the airline said it would reduce the number of flights it has scheduled for the fall and build a reserve of staff to serve as a cushion in an emergency. Now seems like a good time to consider becoming a pilot.