Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly denied rumors Tuesday that more than a thousand flights were cancelled over the coronavirus vaccine mandate.
While speaking on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Kelly said “there’s just no evidence” that the vaccine mandate was causing the company to cancel all the flights. “Our people are working very hard,” Kelly said. “I’m very proud of them, especially when we get into a difficult situation like this, they’re also delayed.”
“I want to apologize to all of our customers. This is not what we want but unfortunately it just takes a couple of days to get things back on track.”
Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly speaks out on cancellation chaos. https://t.co/bwAoBRTkWX pic.twitter.com/UCuh4vr3HR
— Good Morning America (@GMA) October 12, 2021
“They’re also ending up in places they didn’t expect,” he added.
Kelly did acknowledge that the vaccine mandate is “controversial” and “not anything I wish for our company” but that it is being mandated by President Joe Biden. (RELATED: 14 Businesses Hit With $1,000 Fines For Not Complying With Vaccine Mandates)
Kelly made a similar statement Tuesday morning while on CNBC, saying delays stemming from Friday forced the airline to cancel flights in a game of catch-up and had nothing to do with the vaccine mandate. Southwest Airlines tweeted Saturday that “disruptive weather [issues] have resulted in a high volume of cancellations throughout the weekend.”
Kelly also said he doesn’t support imposing a vaccine mandate but is following Biden’s executive order.
“I’ve never been in favor of corporations imposing that kind of a mandate. I’m not in favor of that, never have been. But the executive order from President Biden mandates that all federal employees and then all federal contractors which covers all the major airlines have to have a mandate – a vaccine in place by December the 8th.”
“We’re working through that, we’re urging all of our employees to get vaccinated,” he continued. “If they can’t, we’re urging them to seek an accomodation, either for medical or religious reasons. And my goal, obviously, is that no one loses their job.”
Southwest Airlines spokeswoman Brandy King also denied the allegations, saying “the weekend challenges were not a result of employee demonstrations, as some have reported.”
Southwest Airlines Pilots Association President Casey Murray said pilots were not attempting to disrupt any operations, according to The Dallas Morning News.
“We have the data from this weekend and our sick rates were exactly in line where they were all summer with the same kind of operational disasters,” Murray reportedly said, noting more pilots were unable to fly due to fatigue during the weekend.