Southwest Airlines on Monday morning canceled hundreds of more flights—coming after the airline scrapped about 2,000 over the weekend—causing shares to drop during morning trading.
According to tracking website FlightAware, approximately 350 Southwest flights were canceled Monday, although it’s down from more than 1,000 cancelations on Sunday.
The Dallas-based airline’s president, Mike Van de Ven, told staff on Sunday night that Southwest is short-staffed at the moment and will “need to continue to adjust our schedules as this environment evolves.”
“We’ve already made significant reductions from our previously published November and December schedules, and if we think we need to do more, we will,” Van de Ven said in a message to employees, according to media reports.
The Epoch Times has contacted Southwest regarding Van de Ven’s comments. A spokesperson for the airline on Sunday declined to comment on rampant social media and passenger speculation that the cancelations were caused by a mass sickout due to the firm’s recently announced COVID-19 vaccine mandate for all employees.
Claims that the COVID-19 mandate was the cause of the delays and cancellations were “inaccurate,” a spokeswoman for Southwest told CNBC. “There’s a lot of unfounded rumor[s] and speculation circulating,” the spokeswoman added.
Southwest previously said in a statement on Saturday that it is working to “return to close to normal operations as we move into Sunday,” blaming the weather and air traffic control problems. Other airlines such as American Airlines or Spirit Airlines had significantly fewer cancelations over the weekend and on Monday, triggering speculation about possible staffing problems—rather than weather-related issues.
“We are working hard behind the scenes to minimize challenges and fully recover the operation as we take care of displaced Crews and Customers as quickly as possible,” the company said. “We experienced significant impact in the Florida airports yesterday (Friday) evening after an FAA-imposed air traffic management program was implemented due to weather and resulted in a large number of cancellations,” Southwest also said Saturday.
The Federal Aviation Administration wrote on Twitter that air traffic control problems ended on Friday, appearing to dispute Southwest’s previous claim. The FAA hasn’t yet responded to a request for comment.
“No FAA air traffic staffing shortages have been reported since Friday,” the agency wrote on Sunday. “Flight delays and cancellations occurred for a few hours Friday afternoon due to widespread severe weather, military training and limited staffing in one area of the Jacksonville Air Route Traffic Control Center.”
The Southwest Airlines Pilots Association (SWAPA), which filed a complaint asking to rescind Southwest’s vaccine mandate, said over the weekend that the union has no connection to the cancellations.
“There are false claims of job actions by Southwest Pilots currently gaining traction on social media and making their way into mainstream news,” SWAPA President Casey Murray said in a statement. “I can say with certainty that there are no work slowdowns or sickouts either related to the recent mandatory vaccine mandate or otherwise.”
He added that Southwest “has claimed that the immediate causes of this weekend’s meltdown were staffing at Jacksonville Center and weather in the southeast U.S., but what was a minor temporary event for other carriers devastated Southwest Airlines because our operation has become brittle and subject to massive failures under the slightest pressure.”