DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Current and former Southwest Airlines workers gathered to protest recent COVID-19 vaccination mandates on Monday, Oct. 18.

They gathered to celebrate “medical freedom” at the airline’s headquarters in Dallas.

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Chopper 11 flew over the group of hundreds of people holding signs that said, “Terminate the mandate,” “freedom not force” and “no jabs for jobs.”

Southwest set its deadline the first week of October under a federal vaccination mandate for employees of companies holding contracts with the U.S. government. But workers can seek medical or religious exemptions. Workers have until late November to comply with the vaccine mandate.

Other major airlines: United Airlines, American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, JetBlue, Alaska Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines — have said they will follow President Biden’s executive order requiring workers to get the shots.

The SWA pilots union told CBS 11 they were not involved in Monday’s protest.

The protest comes on the heels of last week’s massive cancellations that left tens of thousands of passengers stranded.

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In an online post, company President Mike Van de Ven expressed his regrets for what happened. “Let me begin with our heartfelt apology to everyone whose travel was disrupted by these events,” Van de Ven said. “We are truly sorry.”

Van de Ven said at first bad weather that stalled the carrier’s Florida operations for hours caused the cancellations.

“As a result, our aircraft and crews were not in their pre-planned positions to operate our schedule on Saturday,” Van de Ven said. “Unfortunately, the out-of-place aircraft and crew resources created additional cancellations … that cascaded throughout the weekend and into Monday and Tuesday.”

Despite social media reports airline employees were staging a vaccine-mandate sick-out, Van de Ven said the weekend challenges were not a result of unusual employee activity.

“Our employees worked heroically in the midst of these adverse conditions and many came in on off days, or flew additional trips, to help the airline recover,” Van de Ven said. “I offer my sincere thanks and appreciation for their tireless work and dedication.”

There’s also a push for all airline passengers to be vaccinated but airlines have so far resisted going that far.

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As of October 30, those who want to fly in Canada must have at least one dose of the vaccine to do so, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced.

CBSDFW.com Staff