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Airline flight delays in Florida were not related to vaccine mandates

August 10, 2021 GMT

CLAIM: Flights across the U.S. are backed up because pilots and crew are walking off boarded flights and refusing to take the mandated vaccine.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. Recent delays and cancellations in airline travel were caused by adverse weather conditions, resurgence of leisure travel and a shortage of employees due to voluntary leaves of absence granted last year.

THE FACTS: Social media users are sharing a photo of a Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport arrival and departure board with numerous flight delays and cancellations, falsely stating it reveals that pilots are walking off flights in protest of having to get COVID-19 vaccines.

The posts say that pilots and crew are refusing to “take the jab.” The photo with the false claim began circulating recently after weather and operational challenges resulted in delayed and canceled flights. The board showed cancellations for Spirit Airlines, American Airlines and JetBlue Airways.

All three airlines contacted by the AP confirmed that the delays and cancellations were a result of weather. The AP reported last week that more than 227 Spirit flights had been canceled and 58 other flights were delayed on August 2.

The Air Line Pilots Association said in a statement that Spirit was also experiencing operational issues that did not include a pilot strike.

“Any such rumor or report is false,” the association said in a statement. “Spirit’s pilots are working diligently with other employee groups to safely and professionally return to full operations as soon as possible.”

Erik Hofmeyer, communications director for Spirit, told the AP in an email that the post was not true.

American Airlines also confirmed that weather caused the delays last week. The airline is offering an incentive _ an extra day off in 2022 and $50 from a recognition program _ to employees who get the COVID-19 vaccine, officials said.

United Airlines and Frontier Airlines will require their employees in the U.S. to be vaccinated against COVID-19 around October.

JetBlue officials also confirmed there was no connection between vaccination among pilots and delays or cancellations, citing weather in the Northeast and the accelerated ramp up in travel as responsible.

“We are continuing to evaluate a vaccination requirement for all JetBlue crew members, and in the meantime, we continue to highly recommend our crewmembers get a shot to protect themselves and those around them,” Derek Dombrowski, JetBlue’s manager of corporate communications, said in an email.


This is part of AP’s effort to address widely shared misinformation, including work with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content that is circulating online. Learn more about fact-checking at AP.