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Southwest Airlines’ Widespread Cancellations Disrupt Weekend Travel

“We can say with confidence that our pilots are not participating in any official or unofficial job actions,” the union, the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association, said in the statement.

The union said that its members “will continue to overcome” management’s “poor planning” and other outside challenges, adding that Southwest pilots “always maintain the highest level of responsibility to their crews, their passengers, and our airline.”

Southwest said last week that it would join several of its competitors in requiring all employees to get vaccinated, setting a Dec. 8 deadline to do so. The mandate is necessary to continue doing business with the government after President Biden ordered all large federal contractors to require vaccination, Southwest said.

“Southwest Airlines must join our industry peers in complying with the federal government’s COVID-19 vaccination directive,” the airline’s chief executive, Gary Kelly, said in a statement announcing the mandate. “I encourage all Southwest employees to meet the federal directive, as quickly as possible, since we value every individual and want to ensure job security for all.”

The pilots union, which said that it does not oppose vaccination, had warned that enforcement of such a mandate could lead to labor shortages and flight disruptions. The union is suing the airline for taking a series of “unilateral actions,” including the vaccination requirement.

In a Friday court filing, the union said that the mandate “unlawfully imposes new conditions of employment” on pilots and asked a judge to stop the airline from enacting that requirement along with other policies and actions.

United Airlines, the first large U.S. carrier to impose a mandate, said recently that nearly all of its 67,000 employees have been vaccinated, except for about 2,000 who had applied for religious or medical exemptions and fewer than 250 who face being fired for failing to comply. American Airlines, Alaska Airlines and JetBlue Airlines have since followed suit.

Delta Air Lines has said it will not require vaccination, but will charge unvaccinated employees $200 more per month for health insurance.

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