Amid ongoing flight disruptions, Texas-based airlines Southwest and American announced Tuesday they will comply with President Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate despite Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order barring any “entity” in the state from compelling receipt of the vaccine.
“According to the president’s executive order,” Southwest said in a statement emailed to Bloomberg News, “federal action supersedes any state mandate or law, and we would be expected to comply with the president’s order to remain compliant as a federal contractor.”
On Monday, Abbott issued an executive order stating that “no entity in Texas can compel receipt of a COVID-19 vaccination by any individual, including an employee or consumer, who objects to such vaccination for any reason of personal conscience, based on a religious belief, or for medical reasons, including prior recovery from COVID-19.”
Abbott said the issue is on the agenda of the upcoming Special Session of the legislature, and he will rescind the order upon the passage of legislation.
“The COVID vaccine should always remain voluntary and never forced,” Abbott said.
Some critics of Biden’s federal mandate point out it exists only in the form of a press release. They note that more than one month after the president announced private companies employing 100 or more people must ensure their employees are vaccinated, no such mandate has been sent to the White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs yet for approval.
Southwest Airlines, which is based in Dallas, canceled more than 350 flights Monday after major disruptions over the weekend, leaving passengers stranded from coast to coast. American Airlines is headquartered in nearby Fort Worth, Texas.
Southwest Airlines and its pilots union blame the disruptions on bad weather and air traffic control issues. But other airlines, who fly in the same skies and use the same airports, are not experiencing a similar rate of cancellations and delays.
Southwest pilots who are speaking out say many are calling in sick in protest of the airlines vaccine mandate.
On Tuesday, CNBC “Squawk Box” anchor Andrew Ross Sorkin pointed out in an interview with Southwest Airlines Pilots Association President Casey Murray that the slowdown began after the union last Friday filed a motion in federal court for a restraining order to block the company’s vaccine mandate.
Murray continued to insist that the pilots’ rate of calling in sick was normal. He emphasized that the aim of the lawsuit is “to get the company to sit down and talk with us and discuss some of our issues.”
Significantly, however, among the issues to address, he said, is “natural immunity, antibodies, alternative means of compliance” with the mandate.
The motion for the restraining order said Southwest Airlines, in violation of the Railway Labor Act, “unilaterally rolled out a new and non…