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Southwest Airlines, one of the largest low-cost airlines in the United States, canceled some 1,800 flights between Saturday and Sunday in the country, which it attributed to problems in its operations due to bad weather and traffic control problems.
Southwest’s cancellation volume, picked up by the FlightAware portal, contrasts with the low figures for other domestic airlines, and in reality the airline’s problems are caused by tension with its pilots’ union due to the recent mandatory vaccination order. This has also been reflected by Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz.
The “air traffic control issues and disruptive weather have led to a high volume of cancellations over the weekend as we work to recover our operations,” the airline said on its Twitter account this Saturday, when it grounded about 800 flights.
However, this Sunday there were a thousand additional cancellations by the airline that have disrupted travel for numerous customers ahead of the Columbus Day holiday —a national holiday this Monday— and forced the airspace regulator to make a statement.
This Sunday, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) sought to disassociate itself from the firm’s attributions with a Twitter message, “Some airlines continue to have scheduling issues because their aircraft and workers are out of place.”
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“There has been no reported shortage of FAA air traffic workers since Friday. There were flight delays and cancellations for a few hours late Friday due to widespread bad weather, a military training and staffing constraints” in Jacksonville, Florida, it added.
The company’s pilots’ union (SWAPA) said it had news of Southwest’s “operational difficulties” due to “different problems” and denied that its members were participating in “official or unofficial actions”.
“Our pilots will continue to overcome poor planning by SWA managers and any external challenges to operations,” the union, which represents 10,000 pilots, said in a statement Saturday.
Southwest Airlines this week told its employees to get vaccinated as soon as possible, following a federal directive from Gov. Joe Biden’s administration, to which the pilots’ union denounced the firm, alleging it has taken “unilateral actions,” including the vaccination requirement.