On his primetime Fox News show on Monday night (October 11th), Tucker Carlson claimed the cancellation of thousands of flights by Southwest Airlines was “a direct consequence” of the Biden administration’s vaccination mandate for federal workers. Disruptions to Southwest flights began shortly after the airline’s pilots association asked a federal court to block the airline’s own vaccine mandate. The "vaccine mandate" issued by the Biden administration only pertains to Federal agencies, not privately owned corporations. The claim that the cancellations were due directly to a federal mandate on COVID-19 vaccinations is unsupported.
Carlson also said a group of Florida air traffic controllers “apparently” walked out on Friday to protest against the vaccine mandate issued by Southwest Airlines, thus contributing to difficulties facing Southwest passengers. Local media has reported that the head of Jacksonville Aviation Authority rejected reports of a walkout.
Southwest Airlines has confirmed staff shortages, but not due to the mandate. The airline says that's been the case since before the pandemic, and blames weather and air traffic control issues for cancellations.
In a statement, the labor union representing Southwest’s pilots, Southwest Pilots Association (SWAPA) said the massive-scale disruption in Southwest’s services were because of management failures and that there was no organized labor action due to vaccine mandates.
It is true that Southwest Airlines implemented their own COVID-19 vaccine mandate, which states that their employees must show proof of COVID vaccination by Dec. 8, 2021. Although SWAPA opposed the implementation of that mandate, it was not because of anti-vaccine sentiments.
SWAPA president Casey Murray said in an Oct. 10 statement, "I can say with certainty that there are no work slowdowns or sickouts either related to the recent mandatory vaccine mandate or otherwise."