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Aviation Blog

No evidence airline crews walking off flights to protest vaccine mandate – PolitiFact

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An American Airlines flight attendant hands out snack bags aboard a Boeing 737 Max jet before taking off from Dallas Fort Worth airport in Grapevine, Texas, Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020. (AP)
Major flight cancellations from Spirit and American airlines have stemmed from myriad issues, including severe weather, staff shortages and system outages — but not protests of vaccine mandates.
United, Frontier and Hawaiian Airlines have announced vaccine requirements and policies for their employees in recent days. None of them have reported protests from their employees.
A Facebook post cheered on airline crews for walking off of their flights to protest their employers’ vaccine mandates — but there’s no evidence such protests are happening.
The Aug. 8 post claims that “flights across America (are) all backed up because pilots/crew are walking off boarded flights.”
“They are refusing the mandated jab,” the caption reads.
This post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)
There have been flight cancellations, but they were for other reasons. Airlines and unions representing flight crews confirmed that this Facebook post is false.
During the first week of August, Spirit Airlines canceled hundreds of flights due to a cascading effect of weather delays, system outages and staff shortages. Thousands of passengers were left stranded by the cancellations.
But the staff shortages didn’t have anything to do with vaccines. CEO Ted Christie told CNBC that because of the continuing delays, Spirit flight crews had reached the maximum hours they could legally work each day and timed out. 
“The rumor about crews walking off because of vaccine rules is completely untrue,” a Spirit spokesperson told PolitiFact. 
American Airlines experienced the same problem, caused by severe weather at its Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport hub. The Allied Pilots Association, which represents pilots for American Airlines, said the claim was false. The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, which represents 50,000 flight attendants across 17 airlines, also rejected the claim.
Sarah Jantz, spokesperson for American Airlines, said the company hasn’t announced a vaccine mandate, but it does offer incentives including an extra day off in 2022 and a $50 bonus.
United Airlines announced on Aug. 6 that all U.S.-based employees will be required in the fall to get vaccinated and upload their vaccination records to the airline’s internal system. The mandate is expected to take effect five weeks after the Food and Drug Administration announces full approval of a COVID-19 vaccine — the vaccines are currently authorized for emergency use — or five weeks after Sept. 20, whichever comes first. 
Have any United Airline crew members walked off of flights in protest? No, says airline spokesperson Leslie Scott. Even before the mandate, 90% of flight attendants and 80% of pilots had already been vaccinated and uploaded their vaccination cards as proof. 
Other airlines are following suit and updating their vaccine policies, including Hawaiian Airlines, which announced on Aug. 9 that all of its U.S.-based employees must receive their final shot by Nov. 1. The only exemptions will be for medical or religious reasons. In the two days after the announcement, communications manager Tara Shimooka said, the company was not seeing any walk offs.
Frontier Airlines announced a policy urging all of its direct employees to be vaccinated by Oct. 1. But it’s not a mandate –– employees who can’t be vaccinated or choose not to will be asked to regularly provide a negative COVID-19 test. 
Since May 17, Delta has required all of its new hires to get vaccinated. 
A Facebook post claimed that flights have been backed up because airline crews across the country were walking off of boarded flights to protest a vaccine mandate.
Spirit and American Airlines have both had numerous flight cancellations due to issues including bad weather, staff shortages and system outages. But both airlines said no crew members have walked off flights to protest vaccine requirements. 
United, Frontier, Delta and Hawaiian Airlines have each implemented vaccine mandates or policies for their employees, but representatives for each of the companies rejected the claim that crew members have protested them..
We rate this claim False.
Facebook post, Aug. 8, 2021
The Washington Post, ​​Spirit Airlines’ multiday travel meltdown continues as passengers seethe. ‘I am truly sorry,' CEO says, Aug.6, 2021
CNBC, ‘We couldn’t get in front of it.’ Spirit Airlines CEO explains what caused the carrier’s meltdown, Aug. 5, 2021
United Airlines Announcement, Aug. 6, 2021
CNBC, Hawaiian Airlines is the latest carrier to mandate Covid vaccinations for staff, Aug. 9, 2021
Press Release, Frontier Airlines Announces Employee Vaccine Policy Effective Oct. 1, Aug. 6, 2021
Delta Airlines, Delta to require new hires in the U.S. to be vaccinated against COVID-19, May 14, 2021
Email interview, Spirit Airlines spokesperson, Aug. 9, 2021
Email interview, Allied Pilots Association spokesperson, Aug. 9, 2021
Email interview, Association of Flight Attendants-CWA spokesperson, Aug. 9, 2021
Email interview with Sarah Jantz, spokesperson for American Airlines, Aug. 11, 2021
Phone interview with Leslie Scott, United Airlines spokesperson, Aug. 9, 2021
Interview with Tara Shimooka , communications manager for Hawaiian Airlines, Aug. 11, 2021
Email interview with Frontier Airlines spokesperson, Aug. 11, 2021
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