Fact Check: NO Evidence To Back Claim That 'Thousands Of Flights Canceled As Vaccinated Pilots Fall Ill Or Die'

Fact Check

  • by: Alexis Tereszcuk
Fact Check: NO Evidence To Back Claim That 'Thousands Of Flights Canceled As Vaccinated Pilots Fall Ill Or Die' Citation Error

Are thousands of flights being canceled as vaccinated pilots fall ill or die? No, there's no evidence that's happening. The claim is made without offering proof pilots who have been vaccinated are either getting sick or dying, forcing cancellations. The article making the claim mis-states research into incidence of thromboembolism among pilots and also repeats the false claim that four British Airways pilots who received the COVID-19 vaccine died in one week, a claim that Lead Stories previously debunked here.

The story appeared as an article published by The Colorado Herald on June 21, 2021, titled "Thousands of flights cancelled as vaccinated pilots fall ill or die" (archived here) which opened:

According to a 2014 study published in the Journal of Thrombosis and Haemostasis, pilots suffer an increased risk of clotting issues due to frequent and prolonged air travel. Pilots are encouraged ...

Users on social media only saw this title, description and thumbnail:

Thousands of flights cancelled as vaccinated pilots fall ill or die

According to a 2014 study published in the Journal of Thrombosis and Haemostasis, pilots suffer an increased risk of clotting issues due to frequent and prolonged air travel. Pilots are encouraged ...

The Colorado Herald article grossly misstates the findings. The authors studied the incidence of venous thromboembolism in a cohort of 2,630 Dutch airline pilots and compared them to those of the general Dutch population and a population of frequently flying employees of multinational organizations and wrote:

The incidence rate did not increase with number of flight hours per year and did not clearly vary by rank. We conclude that the risk of VTE is not increased amongst airline pilots.

The article offers no proof of the claims that "thousands of flights" have been canceled due to pilots either dying or falling ill from a COVID-19 vaccine. With domestic travel ramping up for Independence Day weekend 2021, when such a story would likely lead newscasts and web reports, Lead Stories' online research on flight cancellations due to pilot illness and death from COVID-19 found no other published news reports regarding the claim. Lead Stories debunked a similar claim about "leaked airline documents" that purportedly revealed "horrific" details about vaccinated pilots here.

A spokesperson for the Air Line Pilots Association, which says on its website that it represents 59,000 pilots at 35 U.S. and Canadian airlines, in a June 29, 2021 email to Lead Stories disputed the "thousands of flights cancelled" claim, writing :

Pilots are healthy and the vaccine is keeping us healthier, even in the midst of the pandemic.

The Colorado Herald article also claims:

At British Airways, at least four pilots have died this week, but the airline wants you to know that their deaths are totally unrelated; Reuter's and Fact Checkers are working hard to dispel any rumors that the pilots could have died from the COVID-19 vaccine. British Airways boasts that 85% of its employees are vaccinated. Airlines are so quick to obey the COVID-19 vaccine narrative that they forget the welfare of their own employees is at stake."

Lead Stories previously debunked this claim here.

Four pilots for the airline did pass away but they did not all die within one week, and there is no proof they died from a COVID-19 vaccine. "There is no truth whatsoever in the claims on social media speculating that the four deaths are linked," British Airways told Lead Stories.

A spokesperson from American Airlines told Lead Stories via email on June 29, 2021 that their schedule adjustment was not related to COVID-19 vaccines:

The first few weeks of June have brought unprecedented weather to our largest hubs, heavily impacting our operation and causing delays, canceled flights and disruptions to crewmember schedules and our customers' plans. That, combined with the labor shortages some of our vendors are contending with and the incredibly quick ramp-up of customer demand, has led us to build in additional resilience and certainty to our operation by adjusting a fraction of our scheduled flying through mid-July. We made targeted changes with the goal of impacting the fewest number of customers by adjusting flights in markets where we have multiple options for re-accommodation."


Southwest Airlines told Lead Stories via email on June 29, 2021 their cancellation issues were primarily attributable to severe weather that affected their largest airports served, causing a domino effect within the company.

Lead Stories reached out to Delta Airlines and United Airlines for comment on the claim and will update this fact check when responses are received.

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Lead Stories is working with the CoronaVirusFacts/DatosCoronaVirus Alliance, a coalition of more than 100 fact-checkers who are fighting misinformation related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more about the alliance here.


  Alexis Tereszcuk

Alexis Tereszcuk is a writer and fact checker at Lead Stories and an award-winning journalist who spent over a decade breaking hard news and celebrity scoop with RadarOnline and Us Weekly.

As the Entertainment Editor, she investigated Hollywood stories and conducted interviews with A-list celebrities and reality stars.  

Alexis’ crime reporting earned her spots as a contributor on the Nancy Grace show, CNN, Fox News and Entertainment Tonight, among others.

Read more about or contact Alexis Tereszcuk

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