Southwest cancellations: Numbers show no sickout, union leader says

On Balance with Leland Vittert

CHICAGO (NewsNation Now) — The president of the Southwest pilots union said during an appearance on Monday’s “On Balance with Leland Vittert” that the numbers back him up: There was no sickout.

He says the opposite is true.

“Looking at our pilot pickup rates, meaning working on their off days picking up extra time, it is almost at an all-time high,” Capt. Casey Murray said. He added that sick time hours were on par with a typical weekend.

The airline and union both say there’s no evidence of a mass protest among its pilots about its upcoming vaccine mandate, though some observers find the timing odd. The airline announced the mandate Oct. 4, four days before the first delays. The union did file for a temporary restraining order against it taking effect last week.

Instead, the airline said air traffic control issues and weather in Florida combined to create the disruptions that have knocked out thousands of flights.

Murray said he can see how the airline’s explanation could be true.

“When there’s a hiccup, Southwest Airlines has has shown a unique ability not to recover as quickly,” he said. “There’s a lot of internal processes that need to change.”

Industry analysts agree the mechanisms that keep flights on time are delicate, and the pandemic has shown every business is at risk of setbacks.

“Pilots do not have to have a sickout to throw a monkey wrench into flying operations,” attorney Bruce Lampert said during “On Balance with Leland Vittert.”

The pilots union lawsuit is asking the airline to come back to the bargaining table to answer questions about the mandate, such as what will happen if a pilot has a negative reaction to the vaccine. Murray has said the mandate should have been collectively bargained, but the union is not necessarily against it.

He called the lawsuit a “mutually exclusive” conversation to the recent disruptions.

Despite the current friction between the union and the airline, he is not encouraging customers to boycott.

“Our pilots have stepped up,” Murray said. “And like I said, they’re they’re working on their off days, they are providing the service to our customers. I will say Southwest is the one that’s letting [customers] down.”

Southwest declined a request to appear on the program, but issued a statement on its website that reads in part: “To every Customer that experienced a cancellation or delay, Southwest offers our sincerest regret regarding disrupted travel plans, and we look forward to a future opportunity to demonstrate our safe, reliable, friendly, and legendary Southwest Hospitality – something that Customers should always expect from Southwest Airlines.”

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