Pilots and flight crews are walking off flights in protest over vaccine requirements, causing rampant cancellations.
As early as August 8th, social media users have been posting screenshots of terminal flight listings, along with text detailing nationwide canceled flights. With captions ranging from, “This is what it will take… if they are wanting to fire you for remaining human,” and, “You won’t see this on the news,” posts alluded that the cancellations were caused by company policies requiring a COVID vaccination.
There is no evidence of any connection between airline vaccine policies and canceled flights in the U.S. Flight delays now are caused by early impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the labor force and economy. Airlines have fired, furloughed, or otherwise lost over 400,000 workers since the beginning of the pandemic. Forbes even claimed the airline industry was the hardest hit of all and noted in February that airlines had not seen any increase in tickets bought so they were not in any way hiring anyone back yet.
Spirit Airlines openly addressed frustrations that created a huge influx of canceled flights: between the last week of July and the first week of August they saw 40% of their flights canceled due to, as the company claims, lack of staff, systems failures, and bad weather. Spirit Airlines even added a banner at the top of their website specifically for people who experienced hardships due to this series of errors.
Spirit Airlines is operating poorly amid the confusion surrounding pandemic travel, but they’re not alone. American Airlines canceled over 1,000 flights from their July schedule, with the American pilot’s union citing a pilot shortage as the reason. Also in June, Southwest Airlines canceled flights due to an unusually high number of sick staff compounded with bad weather. On July 22th, Southwest Airlines COO Mike Van de Ven detailed their airline's failings and vowed to assure they do better in the future.
The majority of airlines do not require COVID-19 vaccinations at this time: including Spirit Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and American Airlines. So the companies seeing these large amounts of cancellations do not require their employees to be vaccinated. Saying that crews are walking out because of vaccine mandates is an assumption with no evidence, but it also ignores a wider picture that developed over some time and was a known issue.