Anti-vaxxers offer a choose-your-own-adventure lie about canceled Southwest flights

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz jumped on a false rumor making its way around his corners of the internet on Sunday, attributing canceled Southwest Airlines flights to vaccine mandates. Because Cruz is an unrepentant fool, he made that claim in a tweet linking an article that made it repeatedly clear that vaccine mandates were in no way responsible for Southwest’s cancellations.  Southwest canceled 1,800 flights over the weekend, attributing those cancellations to “unexpected ATC issues and bad weather across our Florida stations,” which Southwest’s own staffing shortages then made worse when crews and pilots were not where they needed to be and the airline didn’t have replacements. But according to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), there were just a “few hours” of delays on Friday afternoon at Jacksonville Air Route Traffic Control Center, and, “No FAA air traffic staffing shortages have been reported since Friday.” Additionally, other airlines didn’t have to cancel anywhere near the number of flights Southwest did. That did not stop the anti-vaxxers from turning it into a big lie about vaccine mandates, with either air traffic controllers or Southwest pilots having walked out or staged a sickout over the mandates. The story varies wildly across social media, which is one of your first clues that the whole thing is fictional. Some seized on the fact that the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association did ask a court to block the airline’s vaccine mandate and other “unilateral actions” that the union, which does not oppose vaccination, said needed to be bargained. That turned into the claim that the pilots—or the air traffic controllers, depending which version of the rumor you read—had staged a mass sickout leading to Southwest’s cancelled flights. Why did this happen at Southwest but not any other airline that has imposed or announced a vaccine mandate? After all, United Airlines already put into place a wildly successful vaccine mandate without noticeable labor disruptions. Silence. Why did it happen while the union had a court case pending, rather than at a more sensible point for escalating a conflict? Silence. The pilots union denied the rumors, saying in a statement, “we can say with confidence that our Pilots are not participating in any official or unofficial job actions.” The statement pointed to “SWA management’s poor planning.”  Other online conspiracy theorists went with an air traffic controller walkout that somehow only really affected Southwest. Cruz, who fancies himself one of the sharpest minds of the Republican Party, decided to go with both: Did Cruz fall for the lies himself and not bother to check that the article he was tweeting matched the claim in his tweet? Or did he just figure that his audience didn’t care? Is he more stupid or more evil is the constant question about Republicans, and usually, it just doesn’t matter what the percentages are, because at base they don’t care about facts, they just care about getting the Republican base good and mad and ready to fight without stopping to think about wrong or right. Monday, Oct 11, 2021 · 3:32:07 AM +00:00 · Laura Clawson BREAKING: I have obtained this email sent by Jacksonville Aviation Authority COO Tony Cugno to the JAA board of directors regarding the delays at JIA on Friday that refutes “rumor”of an organized walkout by controllers regarding vaccination mandate @ActionNewsJax pic.twitter.com/wBSOTacvd2— Ben Becker (@BenBeckerANjax) October 10, 2021

Anti-vaxxers offer a choose-your-own-adventure lie about canceled Southwest flights

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz jumped on a false rumor making its way around his corners of the internet on Sunday, attributing canceled Southwest Airlines flights to vaccine mandates. Because Cruz is an unrepentant fool, he made that claim in a tweet linking an article that made it repeatedly clear that vaccine mandates were in no way responsible for Southwest’s cancellations. 

Southwest canceled 1,800 flights over the weekend, attributing those cancellations to “unexpected ATC issues and bad weather across our Florida stations,” which Southwest’s own staffing shortages then made worse when crews and pilots were not where they needed to be and the airline didn’t have replacements. But according to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), there were just a “few hours” of delays on Friday afternoon at Jacksonville Air Route Traffic Control Center, and, “No FAA air traffic staffing shortages have been reported since Friday.” Additionally, other airlines didn’t have to cancel anywhere near the number of flights Southwest did.

That did not stop the anti-vaxxers from turning it into a big lie about vaccine mandates, with either air traffic controllers or Southwest pilots having walked out or staged a sickout over the mandates. The story varies wildly across social media, which is one of your first clues that the whole thing is fictional.

Some seized on the fact that the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association did ask a court to block the airline’s vaccine mandate and other “unilateral actions” that the union, which does not oppose vaccination, said needed to be bargained. That turned into the claim that the pilots—or the air traffic controllers, depending which version of the rumor you read—had staged a mass sickout leading to Southwest’s cancelled flights. Why did this happen at Southwest but not any other airline that has imposed or announced a vaccine mandate? After all, United Airlines already put into place a wildly successful vaccine mandate without noticeable labor disruptions. Silence. Why did it happen while the union had a court case pending, rather than at a more sensible point for escalating a conflict? Silence.

The pilots union denied the rumors, saying in a statement, “we can say with confidence that our Pilots are not participating in any official or unofficial job actions.” The statement pointed to “SWA management’s poor planning.” 

Other online conspiracy theorists went with an air traffic controller walkout that somehow only really affected Southwest. Cruz, who fancies himself one of the sharpest minds of the Republican Party, decided to go with both:

Did Cruz fall for the lies himself and not bother to check that the article he was tweeting matched the claim in his tweet? Or did he just figure that his audience didn’t care? Is he more stupid or more evil is the constant question about Republicans, and usually, it just doesn’t matter what the percentages are, because at base they don’t care about facts, they just care about getting the Republican base good and mad and ready to fight without stopping to think about wrong or right.

Monday, Oct 11, 2021 · 3:32:07 AM +00:00 · Laura Clawson

BREAKING: I have obtained this email sent by Jacksonville Aviation Authority COO Tony Cugno to the JAA board of directors regarding the delays at JIA on Friday that refutes “rumor”of an organized walkout by controllers regarding vaccination mandate @ActionNewsJax pic.twitter.com/wBSOTacvd2

— Ben Becker (@BenBeckerANjax) October 10, 2021