Are Southwest Airlines Pilots Protesting Vaccine Mandates?

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Damir Mujezinovic

Southwest Airlines over the weekend canceled more than 2,000 flights, leaving thousands of customers across the United States stranded.

The company said that the cancellations were a result of weather and air traffic issues, but many thought that was just an excuse when Southwest cancelled another 337 flights on Monday.

So what is really happening? Why did Southwest cancel so many flights? Some speculate that pilots are unhappy with the company's decision to mandate coronavirus vaccines and are therefore striking.

Read more below.

Anti-Vaxx Strike

As TMZ reported, Southwest's pilot union filed on Friday a formal complaint against the COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

But nonetheless the union said in a statement that the pilots are not to blame for the cancellations.

"[W]e can say with confidence that our Pilots are not participating in any official or unofficial job actions... Our Pilots will continue to overcome SWA management’s poor planning, as well as any external operational challenges, and remain the most productive Pilots in the world."

So, what's really going on?

Republicans Praise Strike

Republican lawmakers and conservative media figures were quick to praise the pilots for allegedly going on strike, according to Business Insider.

"Joe Biden's illegal vaccine mandate at work. Suddenly, we're short on pilots & air traffic controllers," Texas Sen. Ted Cruz tweeted.

"The fact that thousands of Southwest employees walked off the job protesting the COVID vaccine mandate forcing the airline to cancel more than 1000 flights is not getting enough attention. Media will make sure you don't see it but keep watching, it won't be the last protest!," said former President Donald Trump's son, Trump Jr.

Trump Weighs In

Even Trump commented on the issue, bizarrely suggesting in an interview that Southwest Airlines pilots are not just protesting Biden's vaccine mandate, but also the results of the 2020 presidential election.

"I think it has a lot to do with a lot of things. I think it has something to do with the election that was rigged. I think these are big fans of your favorite president, I think that this has something to do with that," he said.

Southwest CEO Gary Kelly, meanwhile, said that COVID-19 vaccine mandates had "zero" relation to the flight cancellations.

Kelly On Vaccine Mandate

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Speaking with CNBC on Tuesday, Kelly said that he has "never been in favor" of vaccine mandates.

Kelly stated that President Joe Biden essentially forced his hand.

"But the executive order from President Biden mandates that all federal employees and then all federal contractors, which covers all the major airlines, have to have a [vaccine] mandate ... in place by Dec. 8, so we’re working through that," he explained.

"We have some very strong views on that topic, but that’s not what was at issue with Southwest over the weekend," he added.