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FACT CHECK: Did CEO Gary Kelly Announce Southwest Airlines Will Not Comply With Joe Biden’s Vaccine Mandate And Will Not Fire Any Employees Over It?

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A viral Facebook post shared over 200 times claims Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly announced the company will not be following President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate and will not be firing anyone over it.

Verdict: Misleading

Although Kelly has said the company will not fire employees who do not get vaccinated, he has not said the airline will refuse to follow Biden’s vaccine mandate for federal contractors. Instead, he has stated the company will comply with it.

Fact Check:

Southwest Airlines canceled a large number of flights during the weekend of Oct. 9 due to what the airline described in a statement as “air traffic constraints” and inclement weather that caused aircraft and crews to be out-of-place.

The cancelations sparked online rumors that they had actually been caused by pilots staging walkouts or sickouts after the airline announced employees must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or receive an exemption by a certain date, in order to be in compliance with Biden’s executive order requiring federal contractors to be vaccinated. Southwest Airlines and its pilots’ union have refuted rumors about a pilot protest causing the cancelations, PolitiFact reported.

Kelly, the CEO of Southwest, later appeared on ABC’s “Good Morning America” and CNBC’s “Squawk On The Street” to address the cancelations. Claims have since surfaced on Facebook alleging he announced the airline “will not be following Biden’s mandate and will not be firing anyone.”

While Kelly has said Southwest will not fire employees over the vaccine mandate, he has not announced the company will refuse to follow Biden’s executive order. (RELATED: A Viral Image Claims Vaccinated Delta Pilot Recently Died Mid-Flight)

“The vaccine mandate, obviously, is controversial, and it’s not anything that I wish for our company,” Kelly told “Good Morning America.” “This is a government mandate, it’s a presidential order, and we are doing our best to comply with that, according to the deadlines that have been set. We’re not gonna fire any employees over this. We are urging all of our employees to get vaccinated; if they can’t get vaccinated, we’re urging them to seek an accommodation.”

During his recent “Squawk On The Street” interview, Kelly said he has “never been in favor of corporations imposing that kind of a mandate.” He went on to say Southwest is working to comply with Biden’s mandate, adding that the objective is to “improve health and safety, not for people to lose their jobs.”

Southwest, which is based in Texas, has said it will not follow Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s ban on vaccine mandates, according to U.S. News & World Report. The airline told Politico that “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.”

“As a federal contractor, Southwest Airlines must comply with the COVID-19 vaccination mandate for Federal Contractors. That fact has not changed,” a Southwest spokesperson told Check Your Fact via email. “Gary has stated that Employees must submit documentation of their fully vaccinated status or request an accommodation by Nov. 24. Southwest does not want anyone to lose their job over this mandate, and the airline has every intention of working with Employees, as best as possible.”

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