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On October 11, 2021, conservative podcaster Benny Johnson tweeted a photo that appeared to show a flag hanging from a blue plane. In the tweet, Johnson claimed someone had just sent him the photo and it showed a Southwest Airlines plane “grounded” sporting a yellow Gadsden flag with the words “Don’t trample on me”.

The tweet with the flag arrived around the same time Southwest Airlines had canceled thousands of flights, fueling rumors that the pilots had called due to the announcement of an upcoming COVID-19 vaccine requirement. Such rumors have been spread on social media by prominent personalities, including even US Senator Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and other politicians and conspiracy theorists.

However, the company said that “the operational challenges were not the result of Southwest employee protests” but rather “of time and other external constraints.” He also mentioned air traffic control issues.

The Southwest Airlines Pilots Association (SWAPA) also published a declaration demystify online complaints. In addition to hushing up rumors that pilots had called out sick pilots due to the vaccination warrant, the union also detailed exactly how weather conditions and “a lack of support” from management played a role in the cancellations. of thefts. The statement cited past “computer failures” that it appeared to be linked to the October 2021 flight cancellations.

In addition, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) tweeted which read: “To be clear: none of the information from Southwest, its pilots’ union, or the FAA indicates that this weekend’s cancellations were related to vaccination warrants.”

As for the photo of the Gadsden flag with the words “Don’t tread on me” that was allegedly hung from a window in the cockpit of a Southwest Airlines plane by a pilot or employee, we have yet to find any evidence. allowing to confirm its authenticity. In an email, a Southwest Airlines spokesperson told us, “We can’t authenticate the details of the image (when / where it was taken, etc.), so we don’t have a lot of information. information to share.

A pilot or employee may have draped the flag out of the window of a Southwest Airlines plane. However, the photograph does not have a named source, and neither can we see the rest of the aircraft to verify information on its ownership or location. Moreover, once again, the company and the pilots’ own union have denied rumors that employees had banded together to call the sick due to vaccination warrants.

According to The conversation, Gadsden’s flag “originated long before the American Revolution, and in recent years has been used by the Tea Party movement and, at times, by members of the militia movement. But he was also used to represent the US Marine Corps, US Navy, the United States Men’s National Football Team, and a Major League Soccer franchise. Its design contains “a coiled rattlesnake on a yellow field with the text ‘Don’t step on me’.

We’ve reached out to Benny Johnson (who tweeted the photo) for more information to help authenticate the image and we’ll update this story if and when we know more.


“No evidence that the Southwest pilots were called in due to the COVID-19 vaccine requirement.”,

Pathieu, Diane et al. “Chicago travelers brace for more problems as Southwest Airlines delays flights, more are canceled.” ABC7 Chicago, October 12, 2021,

“Southwest Airlines cancels over 1,000 Sunday flights.” AP NEWS, October 10, 2021,

SWA in the news.

“Gadsden’s yellow flag, important in the Capitol takeover, carries a long and changing history.” AP NEWS, January 6, 2021,

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