After a weekend of astronomical flight cancellations and delays, Southwest Airlines denies any demonstrative actions by pilots and says they will opt to continue with their vaccine mandate for employees. 

In early September, President Joe Biden signed Executive Order 14042, which requires that all federal contractors either take a COVID-19 vaccine, be approved for an exemption, or face termination. 

Following Southwest Airlines’ weekend cancellations, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced an executive order Monday evening that prohibits vaccine mandates by an entity, employer, or government. 

Southwest Airlines’ government contracts designate them as federal contractors, and they have chosen to enforce Biden’s mandate despite pushback from the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association. SWAPA requested a hearing in the federal court to halt the vaccine mandate until a lawsuit over alleged labor law violations can be resolved by the court.  

“According to the president’s executive order, 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,” the airline said in a statement.

Abbott’s explanation for the executive order included a jab at the Biden administration, stating, “in yet another instance of federal overreach, 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.” This instance of referring to workforce disruptions seems to implicitly refer to the airline’s weekend debacle. 

The move was a major reversal from Abbott’s previous position of opposing a ban on employer vaccine mandates.

Gov. Abbott also added vaccine mandates to the legislative priorities of the current special session. If the Texas Legislature manages to pass a bill in the next week regarding the prohibition of vaccine mandates, the executive order would be rescinded in favor of the law from the Legislature.