All of the flight cancellations at Southwest Airlines since the weekend have the rumor mills working overtime. Nobody is buying the official story because they are the only company in the sky having problems with the weather or Air Traffic Control. The truth isn’t what conservative pundits think it is either. Instead, it’s worse.
Southwest cancellation scandal
By the time Senator Ted Cruz jumped on the vaccine protest bandwagon, the head of the pilot’s union went to NPR and debunked the rumors of a pilot sick-out protest. Captain Casey Murray, president of the Southwest Airlines Pilot’s Association, fully understands how everyone could jump to that conclusion. He admits that yes, indeed, the union sued the airline over the mandate but it has nothing at all to do with the canceled flights. That, he says, is management’s problem.
Without coming right out and saying anything concrete, he implied to Wall Street Journal that the company had such system-wide general failures in so many areas, from staffing to logistics across the board, that Southwest passengers can expect the same thing to happen “next weekend or the holidays or whenever a thunderstorm pops up in Mexico.” No wonder the suits tried to blame the weather. They weren’t telling any lies, just holding back the full extent of the problem.
The real problem, Murray explains, is the way the company is structured. It has “an extremely complex network. It is not hub and spoke. So our contract allows for that, and that’s what Southwest specializes in. But when there is a, you know, an occurrence, whatever it is, that causes – it happens to cause more domino effects, which we’ve seen.”
ATC issues and disruptive weather have resulted in a high volume of cancellations throughout the weekend while we work to recover our operation. We appreciate your patience as we accommodate affected Customers, and Customer Service wait times are longer than usual. (1/2) pic.twitter.com/o1scQJ5lLb
— Southwest Airlines (@SouthwestAir) October 9, 2021
Same as the last ‘meltdown’
By Tuesday, October 12, Murray had some facts and figures in hand to prove that “our pilot sick time was right in line with the same sort of meltdown issues during the summer.” Not only were a low number of Southwest pilots calling in sick, there were a high number of volunteers to pick up the slack. The snag is in logistics. Getting the available staff, including pilots, to the plane in time for takeoff.
As Captain Murray explains, “we started seeing trends with how the airline was reassigning pilots, how they were, how they were covering uncovered trips, cancellations as well as some IT shortfalls. And we’ve really been trying to work with them to get to that.” In other words, blame the Southwest management. “What we haven’t seen through this summer, through the last couple of years and then through this weekend is really proactive steps that are going to be taken to make sure that this doesn’t happen again.”
There are genuine issues with the vaccine mandate but those are totally separate from what happened to inconvenience passengers. The pilots have done their part, talking until they’re sky blue in the face. This problem started long before the heavy handed Imperial mandate. “We’ve offered them solutions. We work very closely with Southwest. And we want to – we actually want them to sort of correct some of these issues so that we’re much more efficient and it doesn’t take four or five days to recover from a thunderstorm.”