Kyle thoughtfully examined the many reasons behind this weekend’s operational meltdown at Southwest Airlines (which is continuing into Monday), but an additional twist may help to explain why we saw so many delays and cancellations: once employees are terminated, they lose their accrued sick days and other benefits. Thus, many are taking them now.
Is Expiring Accrued Leave The Reason For Southwest Operational Meltdown?
Employees at Southwest and American Airlines have been more vocal in their resistance to the Biden Administration’s vaccine mandate than at other U.S. carriers. Unions representing pilots at both carriers have condemned the mandatory jab and argued it should not be necessary.
In trying to explain why 24% of flights were cancelled on Saturday and a further 35% delayed (with similar cancellation numbers on Sunday), Southwest has blamed weather and Air Traffic Control. The problem with that theory is that is has not impacted other airlines, who fly under the same weather and use the same ATC systems.
Summer was already a difficult period for Southwest operations due to a pilot shortage and stretched workforce. Throw in employee resistance over a vaccine mandate and the dominos start to fall quickly.
But is it really resistance to the vaccine mandate that is causing these delays and cancellations? Consider the words of a purported Southwest Airlines employee based in Denver, shared with Live and Let’s Fly via a private Facebook group:
“We’re all using our sick time now because they won’t pay it out before they fire us over the mandate. Most of us have almost two weeks worth of sick pay saved up so this will be a long couple of week for y’all, because Southwest used to be an amazing place to work we didn’t take our sick days. That all changed last week with the mandates and the company caving to it instead [of] standing with its employee’s personal rights.”
We cannot verify if this is really a Southwest employee: it is Facebook after all.
But it does present a plausible theory as to why we have seen so many cancellations now: if employees intend to be fired over the vaccine mandate, they will not be able to take their sick days and vacation time with them. Consequently, they will use them now.
Consider this another data point as we try to ascertain what is behind the delays at Southwest. It seems to me that the only new element involved is the vaccine mandate, thus it is likely this at least partially is playing a role.
The anti-vaxxing pilots better have some transferable skills for their next job if not retiring
There will be loads of job openings as the vaxed continue dying at an ever accelerated rate. Facts are facts – look at death statistics in Israel and the UK. 60-70% of Covid deaths are in the vaccinated.
How pleasant to live in your own reality Bob!
Um, try again “Bob”. Do a little brief actual primary research. In the last week that data is available, 60% of the deaths in Israel were in the 17% of population that is unvaccinated; the unvaccinated significantly overrepresent the deaths.
Also maybe try looking at absolute numbers. The total death rate is very low. Around 20 a day recently in a population of 9million+.
That’s what happens when you vaccinate almost the entire population- total death rate drops dramatically. You still have some breakthrough deaths in vaccinated people (no vaccines prevent all deaths). If they get to 100% of the population vaccinated, then guess what- 100% of the deaths will be in vaccinated patients- at very small numbers. Think about it.
Let’s try a little critical thinking, people. And look up the actual primary data first.
Impossible for ~25% of this country to do any “critical thinking” when they live in an alternate reality bubble, where the election was stolen, Covid is a hoax, vaccines don’t work, 5G Bill Gates George Soros etc. etc. etc.
Actually it closer to 50% of us. Some are vaccinated like myself and still want to see the far left like you beaten in the streets with your teeth kicked in for your attitude toward other Americans.
Are you ready to back up your hatred toward us? Didn’t think so. But then again, you will never say the things you say here in person.
F’n human garbage that won’t even donate 1/100 of your salary to charity.
Apparently “Dave” doesn’t have anything to add. Do you have anything besides acting like a schoolyard bully and threatening violence?
Not even sure where your rant on “far left” and charity donations came from.
Seriously, grow up.
GC please stand up and take a bow. Great response. This is coming from an Australian (we have freedoms now if you are vaxxed) but our state should hit 80% by the weekend and 90% in a few weeks. It has been hard like really hard but glad there is light at the end of this tunnel. Now how are you meant to talk to strangers in public again……
Matthew – Kyle tarnishes the goodwill you have accumulated over the years on this blog. In my opinion, this past year has been your best writing. Not sure if its your life situation (which you have been open in sharing) but I appreciate how you have been pounding the pavement while openly sharing that some posts are meant to generate traffic. That said, you are adept at toeing the line without taking a firm political stance. Kyle does not add anything l. I don’t get it. Even before he started getting political, his writing was just not good. I’ll continue to be a regular reader every day but Saturday. BTW, interesting take on the sick day theory.
@ Matthew — Yeah, I don’t read L&LF on Sundays, either. Surely, the blog traffic drops precipitously on Sundays.
Leave Kyle alone. He has a different style but I enjoy reading his posts.
Thanks for reading @The real Beej and of course thank you @Gene for being with me from the very start. I try to be honest and evenhanded in every post I write and find that being personal helps to distinguish LALF from others.
Kyle wrote a well-researched post on this topic yesterday that drew conclusions other writers with fewer sources weren’t bold enough to make. Now that it’s essentially considered fact, he “doesn’t add anything” probably isn’t objectively accurate.
I disagree with that, I don’t think it was particularly well researched or drew any conclusions beyond “it points to a larger issue, one yet to be revealed.”
Better research could be done in explaining why Southwest experienced the same Florida weather as every other airline yet had a total meltdown. I came away wishing he had researched and shared what % of Southwest’s schedule touches Florida and compared that to other airlines, for example.
I also don’t think (and I don’t mean this rudely) that this post is a particularly good one either. You’re putting a lot of stock into this one Facebook comment without much questioning of it. When I read the statement, I asked myself
-Is this person a crew member? If not, then what he/she is saying is irrelevant to the situation (mass cancelations like this are crew related)
-Only having two weeks of accrued sick time seems quite low
-What is the % of non-vaccinated employees? Probably a very definite minority. They’re definitely not running the airline.
My point being, by writing this post, even if you’re saying the comment may or may not be accurate, you’re giving it credence that, in my opinion, it doesn’t deserve.
Don’t worry!! “Dave” is nothing more than a loser, just like all the little insignificant trumpian minions running around. Just like Bob above! Say it to MY face!
Let’s avoid profanity, please.
Matt, not only did you censor me, but you placed my commentary back in the wrong thread. You might as well just delete it already !!
I didn’t place your commentary in the wrong thread – I didn’t move it at all. I just deleted the profanity. You are very capable of expressing your ideas cogently without resorting to the sort of language that Google penalizes me for when it scans these pages.
I’m so confused. Do we know how vacation and/or sick are handled at WN? It’s a pretty complicated area. If they get dedicated paid vacation time, that should be paid out. If they get dedicated sick time (whether paid or not), it would not be ethical to take it just because, even if they would otherwise lose it. Of course, if they get all-purpose flex days, they ought to be paid out so the point is moot. Does anyone know? I am not an expert in this area – just found out at my company we get “floating holidays” that are use it or lose it each year! It’s a mad mad world out there.
I don’t know, but the Facebook message specifically references sick days – you are correct there are ethical issues with taking sick days when not sick, yet it is a reflection of the changed culture at SWA.
I’m guessing that for the most part the pilots have no intention of leaving and are simply throwing a tantrum because they’re not getting their way. United proved that mandates do work despite a lot of pearl clutching by the science deniers.
As others have noted, most ethical workers don’t count sick days as something owed to them and expected to be cashed out every year. In most businesses, it’s usually a fireable offense to take them if you’re not actually ill. Obviously proving it is another thing and we don’t know how it’s handled at WN, but posting on FB that you’re fraudulently taking them would probably lead to some kind of disciplinary action.
“Sick-outs” can be used in industrial actions, but it’s usually clear it’s happening. Even when it’s illegal (as would be the case here), the signals are there and the aggrieved party typically is sending a winking “it’s not us, but is us”. In this case, the pilots are being pretty adamant that it’s not them. One aggrieved “employee” on FB with a political axe to grind does not make for a movement.
I’m surprised “sick days” is still even a thing, considering most companies (that I have applied for and worked for) already use PTO instead.
I agree with this. Sick days are to be used when you are sick and are use-them-or-lose-them. Vacation days you should get paid out when you leave.
Army flight surgeon says pilots risk ‘sudden cardiac death’ from COVID vaccine side effect
Don’t use Parler but apparently some do. As someone super healthy, young, and fit, I’ll take my chances with COVID, thanks, versus this.. y’all with have cancer within years, if not before: https://www.instagram.com/p/CU44YaRAiIQ. Don’t say that we didn’t warn you.
Ok, “Acura”. So what is your point here”? You’ve linked a report of a flight surgeon opinion in “American Military News”. Do you have any actual data to share, perhaps medical journal articles, or actual hard data or just spitting back something you read without understanding the background?
So, try again: ALL vaccines have side effects and rare risks. Any idea the risk of sudden cardiac death per vaccine dose? Any comparison between vaccinated and unvaccinated people? Have you compared the expected cardiac death rates in the community with those reported post- vaccine?
So we have a little over 1000 reports of any form of myocarditis (If you’re posting a link about it, you better be able to explain what that is without googling), most of which were mild and self limited . Out of a few hundred million vaccinations given – so since you are such an expert, please calculate the risk rate for us will you? Versus the same risk of myocarditis in “natural” Covid-19.
Sow how does this argue against vaccines in the military where we have to have an effective healthy fighting force? Workplaces that are high- impact in terms of safety outcomes (airlines, hospitals, etc)?
Here’s some real news – your chances of dying from actual Covid are probably, I don’t know, 1,000,000x that of this phantom in-flight fake side effects (no actual examples of the latter).
Shameful that people post this trash. Take it to Parler.
Why do we think there were never these (possible) issues at UA? I doubt there is a major difference in the political beliefs/vaccine reluctancy of pilots at WN vs UA. There were obviously small hiccups but overall I’d say UA’s implementation went smoothly. On the other hand WN’s pilots seem to be pitching up way more of a fight. If this rumor re: sick days is true, the only thing I could think of is UA employees have a different way of “cashing out” sick days that doesn’t encourage call outs with impending termination?
As a side note, it is weird seeing WN so publicly have labor issues. I was a loyal WN flyer for years but recently started flying more UA/AA (for reasons unrelated to this). WN employees always seemed thrilled to work for them, and it’s a little disappointing to see the cracks in that. Equally disappointing (for me) is that the issue in question is just a mandate of a safe vaccine.
I read a fairly detailed newspaper writeup of how United, after a rough start on the vaccine, realized quickly that they needed to work closely with the unions, to offer incentives first before phasing over to a requirement. United put effort into brining vax opportunities to various United workplaces, and just took an open, collaborative approach.
I don’t know how WN management looked at this.
Nor what the union’s beef at WN is. United pilots are organized as a unit of ALPA, and Southwest’s union appears to be independent (somehow, not surprising!). That may be one of the differences, tho.
Haven’t posted or read the travel blogs since March but couldn’t resist having a look with the Southwest meltdown over the weekend.
Everyone saying the mandates are enforceable, you’re full of s**t! This is just the beginning. The whole airline industry and many others are going to implode.
Implosion…hardly. There will be slight hiccups and people who decide to end their employment via vaccine refusal will find the next decent job they apply for will require vaccination or increased health care premiums. There are a lot of pilots out there looking for nice cushy mainline jobs/schedules. Once the flight schools ramp back up there will plenty of eager kids out there that will give their left whatever to chase the dream. Year one first officer salary at any of the majors is $90-100K. After year 6 – $200K+. Oh, plus pension and excellent benefits. For that type of $$, lots of people will abandon their “moral objections”.
Hospital systems who have enforced the mandate and laid people off are just filling those slots with outside contract labor until new grads and other outside recruiting catch up.
Lawsuits are going to go nowhere. Vaccination status is not a protected class, and vaccination mandates have been part of US case law since 1903.
It’s just not a good hill to pick to die fighting on, bad defensive position and not enough troops to hold it.
Pilots, mechanics, flight attendants, … who quit over vaccinations will find that they are losing their seniority and will work at a lesser paying airlines or a lesser paying job elsewhere. Vaccinated people at the lesser paying airlines will have the opportunity to move up.
Before COVID there was a shortage of people filling these jobs. If the people working at lower paying airlines have any sense they will apply at the higher paying airlines and shift this problem to their departing airlines. In the past Unions have throttled this channel. Now the only way to throttle this channel is to support not being vaccinated. This is not a popular position.
As idiotic people quit there higher paying vaccination required jobs this will present an opportunity for vaccinated people at lower paying jobs to move into them.
Capitalism at work.
If that anonymous FBer actually represents the view of a notable percentage of Southwest employees, then I’m extra-glad to be avoiding SWA for the time being. I’ve been grumpy about SWA since they became rigid about travel dollars I couldn’t use during the first wave of the pandemic. It wasn’t a big sum, but DL and JBU were definitely better with retaining value paid in.
I’ve flown three domestic r/ts since I got vax’d, and have a longer set of flights to visit SJU in November, and I’ll just say SWA isn’t where I’m spending my travel dollars.
This meltdown, whatever the cause, won’t do anything to woo me back.
‘@daveedwards spreads hate towards anyone who thinks differently than him and members of his cult. Come to Bombay son. Will teach you some lessons in getting your teeth kicked in.
I know you won’t take me up on this offer because just like your demigod, Mr Bone Spurs, you’re just a cowardly little blowhard.
Another mouth-breathing Trumper tossing away a career for a much worse / lower paying / less rewarding next job…congrats!
Using “Kyle” and “thoughtful” together is an oxymoron, much like jumbo shirmp.
Trash article, it’s just one ‘alleged’ employee typing on your BookF#ck page.
Get the VAXX, wear your mask and deal with this until it’s over. The data back this up.