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Southwest Airlines has been hit by a second day of mass-flight cancellations, two days after the firm's pilots' union asked a court to block a COVID vaccine mandate.
The Dallas-based carrier canceled over 1,000 flights Sunday, equivalent to 27 per cent of its entire schedule for the day.
That came hot on the heels of 808 flights canceled on Saturday. Southwest has blamed a combination of inclement weather and staffing shortages at Jacksonville Air Traffic Control Center in Florida for the disruption.
But social media users have cited a Friday court filing by the airline's pilots union, the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association, as evidence of a different cause.
That filing sought to block pilots from having to have a COVID-19 vaccine, with Southwest setting a December 8 vaccination deadline.
It is federally-required to vaccinate its employees as a holder of US government contracts.
Travel industry analyst Henry Harteveltd cited the ongoing vaccine wrangle as a possible reason for the chaos.
Southwest's pilots union denies any industrial action is ongoing, but Harteveld said pilots could have organized to arrange in unauthorized action known as a 'work slowdown.'
Southwest nixed more than 1,800 flights during the weekend, leaving passengers stranded
He spoke after the Southwest pilots' union lawsuit says the rule 'unlawfully imposes new conditions of employment and the new policy threatens termination of any pilot not fully vaccinated by December 8, 2021.'
That suit adds that Southwest's proposed policy is a violation of the Railway Labor Act.
A spokesman for the pilots union - which represents 9,000 of Southwest's 10,000 pilots - says it was not aware of any industrial action underway.
Jacksonville Airport staff said the shortages with its staff were not related to vaccine mandates.
Passengers took to Twitter to speculate over the vaccine lawsuit after rivals axed far fewer flights; American Airlines cancelled 63 flights Sunday, while United cancelled nine trips.
A passenger and his child were left sleeping on the floor after being stranded in Las Vegas
'This has nothing to do with weather,' said one Twitter user. 'Thanks for ruining our week with our grandkids.
'At least admit it was due to selfish pilots.'
The Southwest Airline Pilots Association (SWAPA) is trying to block the airline from participating in a federally-mandated vaccine directive that requires employees to be fully inoculated by December 8.
The association, which represents nearly 10,000 pilots, in a court filing demanded the airline 'cease and desist' the mandate rollout without first reaching an agreement with the union.
One passenger said she was on hold for more than eight hours after her flight was cancelled
Southwest in a statement continued to blame the cancellations to weather challenges in Florida, coupled with 'unexpected air control issues' in the same area.
'We've continued diligent work throughout the weekend to reset our operation with a focus on getting aircraft and crews repositioned to take care of our customers,' it said. 'With fewer frequencies between cities in our current schedule, recovering during operational challenges is more difficult and prolonged.'
But some passengers aren't buying the reasoning.
'Why lie about the issues of canceled flights?' Michelle Harbort tweeted.
'It's not due to weather and ATC issues!!! People are not getting vaccinated so your employees are walking off the job!! Thankfully my husband and I got another flight to our destination.
'Please don't lie, that's what made me mad today.'
Nora Kennedy, who said she was stranded at Orlando International for days, posted a photo of the airport's departure board, which indicated a disproportionate amount of Southwest flights being affected.
'Strange how the ATC issues and weather are still only affecting your airline at MCO,' she tweeted. 'Must be some crazy storms if they're only targeting your planes.'
Southwest cancelled more than 1,800 flights during the weekend
Andrew Sproge said he and his son resorted to sleeping on the floor of a Las Vegas airport after being stranded there during a stopover en route to Maui.
He wrote: 'Flight to Maui was cancelled after arriving in Vegas. They told us they would send us to Honolulu and take care of us when we arrived.
'Apparently the 'taking care' of us meant the baby is welcome to lay on the carpet as we wait til tomorrow for another flight. No hotel, no food.'
Ryan Bevans said he and his family said the mass cancellations left him and his family stranded for hours.
'They were unable to get our bags,' he tweeted. 'Bags will continue to destination regardless of what we do. Three kids, pregnant wife, no bags… and the offer is a $100 credit to a future flight with @SouthwestAir.
'About as (tone) deaf as it gets.'
He said Saturday that customer service employees were not offering reimbursements, or hotel credits, and that the next flight out from Denver was three days away.
Another passenger said she waited on hold with the Dallas-based airline's customer service for more than eight hours.
It isn't the first time Southwest airlines has left its passengers in a bind.
More than 1,400 Southwest Airlines flights were delayed or cancelled in June after a technical glitch in a weather information system.
Flight operations began to resume across the US late on Monday after delays hit for hours.