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- Airlines said bad weather and staff shortages due to COVID-19 infections were to blame for flight cancellations.
Are vaccines to blame for the cancellations of thousands of flights around the world?
In short, no.
A Facebook user posted a video of a vaccine critic speaking at a conservative conference about the use of vaccines by pilots, and wrote a caption: "why the flights have been shut down worldwide." The caption included the hashtag "just say no" along with an emoji of a needle.
The 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.)
Airlines report that COVID-19 infections among their staff members and wintry weather are to blame.
SkyWest, which canceled hundreds of flights over the December holidays, told USA Today that its cancellations were the result of bad weather and an increase in coronavirus cases and quarantines among its crew members.
USA Today reported on Dec. 27 that Southwest blamed its cancellations on weather challenges, and Delta said its cancellations were due to a combination of weather and the virus.
JetBlue told the Washington Post, in an article published on Dec. 29, that its operations were affected by rising coronavirus caseloads, and that it was reducing its schedule through the first two weeks of January.
And despite the claim in the video caption that the cancellations are linked to vaccines, there’s nothing in the actual video itself that supports the claim.
The video is from a broadcast of Real America’s Voice, and was filmed in Phoenix, Ariz. It appears to have been recorded on Dec. 20, 2021, in a Turning Point USA conference event involving pilots. In it, Leigh Dundas, a lawyer who works with America’s Frontline Doctors, which has spread misinformation about the virus, recounted what she said were adverse reactions from the COVID-19 vaccines and their impacts on commercial airline pilots. She relayed information from the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System, a database maintained by the federal government that contains unconfirmed reports of adverse events following vaccination — data that is frequently misused by vaccine critics to spread misinformation.
She also mentioned cases of vaccinated pilots who became sick on the job. PolitiFact looked at a case in October — a claim that a vaccinated pilot died mid-flight and forced an emergency landing — and found no evidence of an emergency landing or a dead pilot. In November, USA Today fact-checked claims that vaccinated pilots were dying during flights and found them to be false.
The Federal Aviation Administration told USA Today that it had seen no evidence of aircraft accidents or pilot incapacitation caused by any complications associated with the vaccines.
A Facebook post claimed that flights were shut down worldwide because pilots have been vaccinated against COVID-19 and have experienced severe negative reactions.
There is no evidence that flights are being canceled around the world because pilots have experienced adverse reactions to COVID-19 vaccines. Airlines have said that wintry weather and coronavirus infections among their staff members have resulted in canceled flights.
We rate this claim False.
Facebook video, Dec. 30, 2021. Accessed Jan. 3, 2022.
Twitter, tweet, @RealAmVoice, Dec. 20, 2021. Accessed Jan. 3, 2022
PolitiFact, "No, a vaccinated Delta pilot didn’t die mid-flight and force an emergency landing," Oct. 13, 2021. Accessed Jan. 3, 2022
PolitiFact, "No truth that VAERS system shows 6,000 "died because of" COVID-19 vaccines," Aug. 9, 2021. Accessed Jan. 3, 2022
USA Today, "Thousands of flights canceled, delayed Monday amid 'perfect storm' of weather, omicron," Dec. 27, 2021. Accessed Jan. 3, 2022.
The Washington Post, "Flight cancellations ease slightly, but airlines warn of more disruption ahead," Dec. 29, 2021. Accessed Jan. 3, 2022.
CNN, "Holiday flight cancellations soar with Covid-19 disruptions and bad weather," Jan. 2, 2022. Accessed Jan. 3, 2022.
USA Today, "Fact check: No evidence vaccinated American Airlines pilots are dying during flights," Nov. 4, 2021. Accessed Jan. 3, 2022.
PolitiFact, "Licensed doctors who spread COVID-19 disinformation face no consequences, report shows," Sept. 22, 2021. Accessed Jan. 3, 2022.
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