Fox News host Tucker Carlson on Monday night claimed the Southwest Airlines chaos at the weekend was caused by pilots striking in protest against compulsory COVID-19 vaccines.
The airline saw almost 2,000 flights cancelled, accounting for 23 per cent of their routes. Southwest blamed the weather, but was the only airline to face problems on such a scale – the second worst airline this weekend, American, saw two per cent of its flights cancelled.
The airline said that they had ‘numerous cancellations, primarily created by weather and other external constraints, which left aircraft and Crews out of pre-planned positions to operate our schedule on Saturday.’
They added: ‘Unfortunately, the out-of-place aircraft and continued strain on our Crew resources created additional cancelations across our point-to-point network that cascaded throughout the weekend and into Monday.’
And they denied that the problems were created by a strike against the vaccine.
‘As a note, the operational challenges were not a result of Southwest Employee demonstrations,’ they said.
Carlson on Monday night insisted the airline was lying.
Tucker Carlson on Monday night accused Southwest Airlines and their pilots’ union of lying, after they both said that there was no strike of staff. Carlson said that airline employees walked off the job in protest at a vaccine mandate
Southwest Airlines cancelled almost 2,000 flights over the weekend. The airline initially said it was due to air traffic control issues, then blamed the weather in Florida for causing a knock-on effect. The airline denied that employees protesting against a COVID mandate had anything to do with the problem
Southwest issued a ‘tremendous apology’ to its passengers on Monday evening
Passengers are seen at Fort Lauderdale airport lining up to speak to assistants on Monday
‘All of that is a lie, it’s not what happened,’ he said.
‘We’ve spoken to several people with direct knowledge of what actually did happen.
‘We can tell you the shutdown of Southwest Airlines over the weekend was a direct consequence, it was a reaction to, Joe Biden’s vaccine mandates.’
Biden in September ordered that all companies with more than 100 employees bring in a vaccination mandate.
He has argued it is the only way to bring the pandemic under control, with 700,000 Americans dead from COVID and more than 2,000 people still dying every day from the virus.
The ruling has proved extremely controversial, with Republican politicians describing it as an attack on personal freedoms.
Greg Abbott, the governor of Texas, on Monday banned companies based in his state from enforcing a vaccination mandate.
Fort Worth-based American Airlines, the largest U.S. carrier, last week told its 100,000 U.S.-based employees they must submit proof of full vaccination no later than November 24 – or be fired.
United Airlines imposed a vaccine mandate on its 60,000 employees, around 9,000 of whom are based in Texas.
Carlson praised the supposed strikers for standing up for their beliefs.
Carlson told his viewers: ”We can tell you the shutdown of Southwest Airlines over the weekend was a direct consequence, it was a reaction to, Joe Biden’s vaccine mandates.’ His claim was denied by the airline and the union
A passenger at Orlando International Airport shared a picture of four children sleeping on the floor due to flight cancellations
A passenger and his child were left sleeping on the floor after being stranded in Las Vegas
Carlson said that one pilot told him that the employees were stressed by the vaccine order
‘So this weekend, in protest, large number of Southwest pilots called out sick and they effectively shut down their airline,’ he told his viewers.
‘For many of them, you should know admire the company they work for – they love Southwest Airlines but felt they had no choice but to do this, nobody was standing over them, not the Congress, which by the way has excepted itself from vaccine mandates.
‘Not even their labor union, which exists and is paid to defend them, but they are not.
‘So in desperation, the pilots committed the most basic act of nonviolent civil disobedience, something we used to celebrate in this country.
‘They stayed home.’
Carlson said that the employees may have chosen to reject the vaccine because they already had had COVID; or they may have a religious reason; or they might be scared of stories about the side effects.
He said the vaccine mandate ‘has nothing whatsoever to do with public health and everything to do with the accumulation of political power.’
Carlson continued: ‘That is happening right now. Make no mistake.
‘It will continue to happen until good people work immediately to stop it.’
Carlson also claimed that the air traffic controllers working out of Jacksonville, Florida – who control much of the southern U.S., Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean – also decided to go on strike over the vaccine mandates.
Officials denied Carlson’s account.
A representative for the Federal Aviation Administration told Action News Jax: ‘Due to a combination of severe weather, active military training in the airspace, and unexpected limited staff at the Jacksonville facility that handles high-altitude, en route traffic, the FAA took steps to safely manage air traffic the evening of Oct. 8. Normal operations returned at approximately 10 p.m.’
Casey Murray, president of the pilots’ association, said: ‘I can say with certainty that there are no work slowdowns or sickouts either related to the recent mandatory vaccine mandate or otherwise’
But Carlson insisted that it was a walkout due to protests.
His comments echo those of Republicans such as Texas senator Ted Cruz, who tweeted: ‘Joe Biden’s illegal vaccine mandate at work! Suddenly, we’re short on pilots & air traffic controllers.’
Donald Trump Jr said: ‘The fact that thousands of Southwest employees walked off the job protesting the COVID vaccine mandate forcing the airline to cancel more than 1000 flights is not getting enough attention.
‘Media will make sure you don’t see it but keep watching, it won’t be the last protest!’
And Andy Biggs, a congressman for Arizona, tweeted: ‘I stand with #Southwest Airlines employees who are fighting against these mandates.
‘This isn’t about a vaccine, this is about freedom.’
The airline and unions both insisted Carlson and the Republicans were incorrect.
‘There is absolutely no evidence of any kind of job action,’ said incoming CEO Bob Jordan in an interview with The Dallas Morning News on Monday.
‘Their trips are disrupted, they have unscheduled overnights and they have all the same types of impacts that our customers experience.
‘If anything, I think they’ve been heroes through this trying to operate.’
The Southwest Airlines Pilots Association on Friday filed for an injunction in federal court over the vaccine mandate.
But they blamed the management of the airline, rather than striking workers.
‘SWAPA is aware of operational difficulties affecting Southwest Airlines today due to a number of issues, but we can say with confidence that our Pilots are not participating in any official or unofficial job actions,’ the union said.
‘Our Pilots will continue to overcome SWA management’s poor planning, as well as any external operational challenges, and remain the most productive Pilots in the world.
‘They will continue to be focused on their highest priority — safety.
‘SWAPA Pilots are true professionals and will always maintain the highest level of responsibility to their crews, their passengers, and our airline.’
The union called reports that pilots staged a ‘sickout’ in protest of the airline’s requirement ‘erroneous.’
‘There are false claims of job actions by Southwest pilots currently gaining traction on social media and making their way into mainstream news,’ said the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association (SWAPA) president Casey Murray in a statement issued late Sunday.
‘I can say with certainty that there are no work slowdowns or sickouts either related to the recent mandatory vaccine mandate or otherwise.’