Southwest Airlines canceled more than 1,000 flights on Sunday as employees continue to react to the company’s decision to impose vaccine mandates. Earlier this week, employees learned they would be required to be vaccinated by December 8 or face termination. Reports circulating on social media suggest disgruntled employees responded to the mandate with a #sickout. Speaking on condition of anonymity, an employee for Southwest said, “The pilots are very upset. There is no organized sick out, but many employees are very disgruntled.”
The pushback began Friday when a reported 3 out of 35 employees showed up for work at the Jacksonville center. According to the source, “almost every flight out of Orlando was cancelled,” as employees protested the new mandate. The source went on to suggest that the Biden administration was in touch with several airlines over the past week and “threatened all CEO’s” to enforce vaccine mandates.
Southwest is not the only airline encountering significant pushback from its employees. United Airlines has reportedly imposed mandates and is placing pilots on “unpaid administrative leave” while the airline reviews applications for religious exemptions, which raises questions of legality. To further muddy the waters, Southwest’s pilot union has reportedly offered “significant” support to United pilots trying to fight company mandates.
The source estimates that nearly 50% of Southwest pilots remain unvaccinated. If airlines continue down this path, the growing fear is the response will “break the system.” “Things are going to get a lot worse,” he said. As many pilots consider their options leading up to the December 8 deadline, it is becoming increasingly clear that the new mandates are slowly chipping away at the foundation of America’s economy.