Southwest Airlines stock gains following severe disruption

Airline CEO blames Biden for vaccine mandate

Southwest Airlines stock traded up on Tuesday, having slumped by more than 4% at the start of the week due to severe travel disruption. 

The company was forced to cancel almost 2,000 flights between Friday and Monday, upsetting the travel plans of thousands of passengers and leaving its own flight crews stranded. 

The carrier attributed the disruption to bad weather, particularly in Florida, and air traffic control issues – issues which the pilots’ union argued would have been minor for other airlines.

The company denied that the turmoil was a result of a so-called “sick-out” by disgruntled workers opposed to the company’s Covid-19 vaccine mandate policy 

Last week, the carrier announced that its 56,000-strong workforce would need to be fully vaccinated for Covid-19 by 8 December or face redundancy. On Friday, the SouthWest Airlines Pilots Association, which represents 9,000 pilots, asked a federal court to block the order. 

CEO's latest comments

Speaking to CNBC on Tuesday, Southwest CEO Gary Kelly stated: “There’s absolutely no issue in working with our employees.” 

Kelly maintained that he was not in favour of corporations enforcing vaccine mandates, but said: “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.”

Texas intervention

Further complicating matters, on Monday Texas governor Greg Abbott issued an executive order explicitly banning any entity, private or public, from imposing vaccine mandates on either employees or customers. 

The order stated: “In yet another instance of federal over-reach, the Biden Administration is now bullying many private entities into imposing Covid-19 vaccine mandates, causing workforce disruptions that threaten Texas’ s continued recovery from the COVID- 19 disaster.”

It added: “Countless Texans fear losing their livelihoods because they object to receiving a Covid-19 vaccination for reasons of personal conscience, based on a religious belief, or for medical reasons, including prior recovery from Covid-19.”

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