This past week Southwest Airlines canceled more than 2,000 scheduled flights. The original explanation was that bad weather and air traffic “issues” necessitated the disruptions was challenged by many who pointed out that other airlines were hardly inconvenienced by either of the proffered explanations. The Federal Aviation Administration denied that a “vaccine mandate” protest by 90% of air traffic controllers in one area of the Jacksonville Air Route Traffic Control Center was responsible for the massive number of flights cancelled and blamed the cancellations on air crew shortages at the airline.
Gary Kelly, Southwest Airlines Chairman and CEO, blamed the vaccine mandate, saying “I’ve never been in favor of corporations imposing that kind of a mandate. 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 mandate in place by Dec. 8.”
Kelly was called out by an unnamed employee who urged him “to reject the lie that there is nothing we can do about the mandate. We are the company of flag ties, ‘Freedom One,’ and pride ourselves on the type of principled people with a ‘Warrior Spirit’ that we hire. We had an entire ad campaign with the tagline ‘you are now FREE to move about the country.’ Choose to make a stand for all of our employees and re-engage with the White House on the contract terms or scrap it altogether. Our business will grow exponentially as millions of Americans who have rallied to our cause scramble to fly on the ‘freedom airline.’”
Presidential Press Secretary Jen Psaki mocked the anonymity of the Southwest Airlines employee and advised Kelly to “not break ranks with all your corporate peers who will be enforcing the President’s wishes on this matter. Do not presume that canceling your federal contracts is the only punishment we can impose. We can also send out swarms of officers to harass, obstruct, and destroy your business. Right now, the FBI is on the trail of your anonymous employee to arrest him for his seditious activities.”