After more than 18 months of health risks, layoffs and disruptive passengers, some Republican lawmakers, including U.S. Representative Jeff Van Drew, have said the recent commercial flight chaos was purely a reaction to airline vaccination mandates .
In fact, the shortage of staff in the airlines is a situation that has worsened since the pandemic interrupted flights in the spring of 2020.
“When an airline is running behind schedule, it’s hard to catch up,” Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly told CNBC on Tuesday. He said the massive flight cancellations last weekend were not at all related to the airline’s intention to maintain a federal vaccine mandate for big business.
The Southwest Airline Pilots Union also dismissed the allegations as fictional.
âThere are false allegations of work actions by Southwest Pilots that are currently gaining traction on social media and making their way into mainstream news. I can say with certainty that there is no work slowdown or work stoppage related to the recent mandate for compulsory vaccination or the like, âa written statement from the Southwest Airline Pilots’ Association said on Sunday.
âSWAPA has not authorized and will not tolerate any labor action. “
Still, Van Drew echoed his Texas Republican colleague, US Representative Ted Cruz, in trying to link the recent theft turmoil only to vaccination warrants.
“If these cancellations were caused by the Biden administration forcing the hand of airlines to demand their employees get vaccinated, the American people should not have to bear the cost of canceled flights,” Van Drew’s statement said. this week.
“If these vaccination mandates persist, we will continue to see the number of strikes increase, services will be continually more difficult to find, and all because people are fed up with the government interfering in their daily lives,” Van said. Drew.
Sunday, Cruz had suggested on Twitter This weekend, the flight cancellations were due to what he called the “illegal vaccine warrant.”
But overworked flight attendants have been a problem for months, as demand for domestic travel rebounded fairly quickly over the summer.
“None of the information from Southwest, its pilots’ union, or the FAA indicates that this weekend’s cancellations were related to vaccination warrants,” the Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement on Monday.
Southwest Airlines used an “emergency illness call procedure” at least three times during the summer season, which required staff to check for illness with a company doctor before calling the patient, such as reported by The New York Times in August,
A federal lawsuit filed by the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association in late August detailed what it said were labor law violations dating back to the early days of the pandemic, when air travel plummeted.
Southwest implemented an “emergency leave” program, changed schedules and cut prescription drugs and retirement benefits, all without collective bargaining, according to the lawsuit, as reported by Reuters.
A new lawsuit, specifically mentioning the vaccine’s mandate as another violation of collective bargaining, was filed on Friday.
A majority of Americans – 6 in 10 American adults in a recent Gallup poll – generally approve of the federal COVID vaccination mandate for millions of American workers.
In addition to the stressful conditions described in the pilot trial, another likely factor is that flight attendants have reached a breaking point in a workplace that has become increasingly hostile.
In June, Insider reported that flight attendants were considering resigning due to increased harassment and abuse at work by passengers.
As of August 23, the FAA had launched investigations into 693 flight disruptions in 2021, as reported by The New York Times. Before 2021, the agency was investigating on average less than 150 incidents per year, according to an FAA spokesperson.
Since United Airlines began requiring a mask for all passengers, they have banned 700 people from returning to the airline, said Scott Kirby, CEO of United Airlines. CBS News Wednesday.
While there are some very strong opinions on the issue of vaccines, that wasn’t the cause of last weekend’s flight cancellations and delays, Kelly repeated in her interview with CNBC.
âI’ve never been in favor of a company imposing that kind of mandate,â Kelly continued, âBut by executive order from President Bidenâ¦ all major airlines must have a vaccine mandate in place by December 8. “
Kelly said his goal was not to fire anyone for refusing to get vaccinated, and he added that workers could seek exemptions for medical or religious reasons, which has become a growing strategy of those who don’t want to. to get vaccinated.
American Airlines, Alaska Airlines and JetBlue have also announced a COVID-19 vaccine requirement for their respective employees, as they are all considered government contractors and are part of the federal mandate announced by the president.
United Airlines previously met its own self-imposed deadline for mandatory vaccinations among employees.
Of more than 67,000 staff, 99.7% of the airline’s workforce has now been vaccinated, according to Kirby in his interview with CBS Mornings.
“I respect that you have a different opinion, but now you have a decision to make as to whether you want to get the shot and stay at United or not,” Kirby said of the tenure.
After their deadline, 232 United workers who refused COVID vaccinations were now laid off, Kirby said.
Another 2,000 United employees have requested exemptions for medical or religious reasons, and a federal judge today said the airline cannot put these workers on unpaid leave because their cases are being processed, like the ABC New York reported.
United Airlines announced a bonus of $ 1,000 for all employees, as a thank you for their hard work during the public health crisis, Kirby confirmed Wednesday.
The airline is now gearing up for a rebound in international travel, announcing its biggest expansion of transatlantic service – with flights departing from Newark Liberty International Airport starting in May and June.
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