Is it wrong to ask pilots to simply fly the plane and save workplace grievances for after hours?
The operational woes for Southwest Airlines continue. Yesterday, the Dallas-based carrier cancelled 435 flights and delayed 1530, disrupting over half of its schedule. Already this morning delays and cancellations are ticking up and will get worse as the day progresses.
We’ve speculated about the root cause of these delays…I won’t do that again today beyond saying that I am more convinced than ever that vaccine resistance is one factor in this string of operational meltdowns, even if just a small one.
Instead, I want to focus on the second picture above. The Don’t Tread On Me flag, also known as the Gadsden Flag, dates back to the American Revolution. It is currently used as a symbol for limited government and has historically been used as a flag of resistance.
Without going down the inevitably controversial path of equivalencies and false equivalences, I just wish pilots would shut up and fly the plane. I get that politics are intertwined in so much of our lives and that the livelihood of many pilots who are resisting the vaccine mandate is now in question.
Yet I don’t think it is naive to ask pilots to step up above the fray and respect that there is a time and place for protest and it is not onboard the airplane. By all means, picket if you feel so inclined. View From the Wing discusses the work being done by Texas Governor Greg Abbott and the Texas Legislature to block vaccine mandates, which sets up a number of interesting legal questions.
But I don’t want to see my pilots overtly supporting one side in a contentious political debate (and debates that should not be political), because they have a higher duty to protect the health and safety of everyone onboard. This isn’t a matter of being able to walk and chew gum at the same time, but of being impeccably professional, which means not engaging in any sort of resistance on the job which distracts from the primary mission.
The biggest problem at Southwest is its total lack of organization while simultaneously stretching itself far too thin. But I sense a resistance is forming that will only grow in the days ahead. Passengers on Southwest (and American Airlines) should expect flight disruptions leading up to the November 24th vaccine deadline and perhaps even more so after that date, as neither airline has the manpower to accommodate disruptions to flight operations. It’s going to get even messier.