Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, suggested that Southwest Airlines' decision to cancel more than 2,000 flights during the weekend was due to President Joe Biden's COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
Although officially blamed on bad weather and air traffic control issues, the cancellations occurred just days after the airline's pilots union asked a court to block the company's new COVID-19 vaccination mandate.
"Joe Biden's illegal vaccine mandate at work!" Cruz tweeted Sunday evening. "Suddenly, we're short on pilots & air traffic controllers."
Southwest announced last week that its workers must be vaccinated against COVID-19 due to the new rules from the Biden administration. Employees have until Dec. 8 to be fully vaccinated, and they are allowed to seek medical or religious exemptions.
Biden early last month announced mandates that required companies with federal contracts to have vaccinated staff. Southwest flies military personnel in emergencies and transports mail for the U.S. Postal Service.
CNN reported that Southwest canceled more than 2,000 flights Friday through Sunday. The world's largest low-cost carrier canceled 3 of every 10 departures it had scheduled on Sunday, and so far 337 flights on Monday, a federal holiday.
American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, and JetBlue told employees last week that they needed to be vaccinated. United Airlines, which in August became the first major airline to do so, has said that more than 97% of its workers have been vaccinated.
United added that it would put staff members who can't get the shots due to medical or religious reasons on unpaid leave until COVID-19 rates decrease, Fox News reported.
On Friday, the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association challenged the company's mandate inside a Dallas federal court. The union claimed the policy "unlawfully imposes new conditions of employment and the new policy threatens termination of any pilot not fully vaccinated by December 8, 2021," according to Bloomberg.
The union said it was aware of the "operational difficulties" affecting the airline but "we can say with confidence that our Pilots are not participating in any official or unofficial job actions."
A Southwest spokeswoman insisted that claims the COVID-19 mandate was the cause of the delays and cancellations were "inaccurate," according to an email to CNBC.
"There’s a lot of unfounded rumor and speculation circulating," the spokeswoman said.
The airline told Fox News about the weather challenges and air traffic control issues.
"We’ve continued diligent work throughout the weekend to reset our operation with a focus on getting aircraft and Crews repositioned to take care of our Customers," a statement to Fox said.
"And we're working diligently to accommodate our Customers as quickly as possible, and we are grateful for their patience. We’re offering Customers added flexibility to explore self-service rebooking options on Southwest.com, where they can get updates on the status of their travel."
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