Southwest Airlines canceled more than 2,000 flights Friday through Sunday, and hundreds more on Monday because employees called in sick, or refused to sign up for overtime hours over the holiday weekend, a Southwest Airlines pilot told American Greatness.
Southwest blamed “air traffic control issues” and inclement weather for the cancelled flights, but the problems were actually a direct result of the airline’s announcement on October 4 that all of its 56,000 U.S. employees were required be vaccinated against COVID-19 or face termination.
Southwest Airlines (LUV) stock plunged Monday after the airline experienced the massive cancellations and delays.
The carrier’s 10,000 pilots “are the most conservative collection of white collar employees in the country,” explained the pilot, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal. He estimated that at least 60 to 70 percent of pilots at Southwest are, like himself, former military.
The tyrannical mandate, he explained, erased all of the good will pilots and other conservative employees had felt toward their company.
That newfound ill will manifested itself over the three day weekend, not with an organized strike, but with many disgruntled employees calling in sick, or not signing up for overtime to help the airline fulfill the increase in flights typical for a holiday weekend.
Gary Kelly, the CEO of Southwest, told employees last week that the airline had no choice but to comply with the regime’s vaccine mandate.
“Southwest Airlines is a federal contractor and we have no viable choice but to comply with the U.S. government mandate for employees to be vaccinated, and — like other airlines — we’re taking steps to comply,” Kelly said.
The pilot told American Greatness that the mandate did not sit well with him or his colleagues.
“This is a collection of very conservative white collar professionals that are very successful, and have done well,” he said. “You mandate a vaccine on them—and these aren’t necessarily people that are going to comply,” he explained, adding “to some extent they’re going to resist.”
He said that over the holiday weekend, Southwest probably saw a 20 percent increase in flights, and relied on the goodwill of pilots to fly those extra trips.
The way Southwest schedules these flights these days, he said, is they rely on a significant number of pilots to pick up an extra trip for time and a half overtime pay. That time and a half pay is usually enough of a enticement to draw the needed number of pilots to fly those trips, he said.
After the vaccine mandate, however, Southwest shouldn’t have expected any pilots to sign up for those extra flights, he said.
The same was true for the pilots who called in sick.
“Let’s say I was supposed to work this past weekend after this vaccine mandate, and you know what, I’m going to lose my sick days in a month or 45 days, so I might as well just use them now and stay at home and help potty-train my two year old, you know what I mean?” the pilot said. “These are my sick days, and I own them, they’re mine.”
He continued: “So you have some people calling in sick, and then you have this extra 20 percent of flights that they’re relying on people to come out there and cover,” the pilot explained. “And people like me are saying, a week ago, you mandated me to do something I’m not comfortable doing—so these are the dominos beginning to fall.
Southwest runs that tight schedule, and then they try to get people to do overtime, and they’re relying on the goodwill of their staff to do that, and it’s not going to happen right now. There’s no good will right now at that company,” he said.
The pilot told American Greatness that Southwest really relies on the goodwill of its employees.
“Historically, it is a family. It’s people that care about each other, and people that will go out of their way to give the shirt off their back to you,” he said, adding that management in one week had completely demolished all of that goodwill.
He stressed that there was no “organized sickout,” or even unofficial talk amongst themselves about calling in sick.
“Nothing like that is going on,” he insisted.
However, the pilot went on to note, everyone knew that it was going to be a busy weekend and the airline would be relying on everyone working together “like we were all one happy family.”
“I knew what the consequences of what me doing that would do,” he said. I knew it would make a tight weekend even tighter, but did I know that there would be maybe a hundred other people doing it? No. I did not know that.
He defended his action, saying, “all I was doing was using my sick days before I get terminated.”
According to conservative director Robby Starbuck, a Republican candidate for US Congress in Tennessee, employees from several other airlines have been messaging him to say that they have been “emboldened” by the actions of the Southwest employees over the weekend.
I’m getting DM’s on all my social media accounts right now from employees at nearly every major airline. They’re all emboldened by the Southwest situation. Expect this to get a lot more serious for airlines very quickly. Lions are awake and people are recognizing their power.
— Robby Starbuck (@robbystarbuck) October 11, 2021