On Thursday, Southwest Airlines president Mike Van de Ven offered an explanation and an apology following a weekend where the airline canceled thousands of flights, leaving passengers stranded across the nation.
"The operational disruption began on Friday and was initially created by weather and air traffic constraints that stalled our Florida operations for many hours," Van de Ven said in a statement. "As a result, our aircraft and Crews were not in their pre-planned positions to operate our schedule on Saturday. Unfortunately, the out-of-place aircraft and Crew resources created additional cancelations across our point-to-point network that cascaded throughout the weekend and into Monday and Tuesday. Weather and air traffic constraints were not an issue beyond Friday, but it took us several days to re-set our network after the initial challenges.
The Federal Aviation Administration countered the claims brought forth by Southwest, saying in a tweet that they have had no reports of traffic shortages since Friday.
The Associated Press reported that the delays occurred shortly after Southwest's pilot's union asked a federal court to block the airline’s order that all employees get vaccinated against COVID-19.
The Southwest Airlines Pilots Association refuted claims that they were protesting, saying in a statement that they "can say with confidence that our Pilots are not participating in any official or unofficial job actions."
Van de Ven explained that the cancelations were not due to the "unusual Southwest Employee activity."
"And there simply is nothing in our data that indicates that particular reason," Van de Ven said. "Our Employees worked heroically in the midst of these adverse conditions, and many came in on off days, or flew additional trips, to help the airline recover. I offer my sincere thanks and appreciation for their tireless work and dedication to serving our customers."