All but 2 major U.S. airlines have announced vaccination warrants
AAnd then there were six. Last week, three major U.S. airlines said they would require their employees to be vaccinated against Covid-19. American Airlines, Alaska Airlines and JetBlue Airways join United, Hawaiian and Frontier airlines to announce staff vaccination mandates.
Among the major US airlines, the two resistant – Delta Air Lines and Southwest Airlines – are being pushed back by unions as they consider taking similar action.
But airlines have little choice. Last month, as part of a new approach to tackling the coronavirus pandemic, the Biden administration stepped up the pressure by ordering the country’s largest employers to impose vaccination mandates. As large employers with more than 100 employees, airlines must require their employees to get vaccinated against the coronavirus or test their employees for the virus at least once a week. Airlines that provide services to government as contractors have an even stricter set of rules. They must apply the vaccination mandate by December 8 without offering a testing option.
White House coronavirus adviser Jeffrey Zients recently lobbied CEOs of American, Delta and Southwest over vaccination warrants in private conversations, the Associated Press reports.
American Airlines CEO Doug Parker wrote in a note to his nearly 103,000 employees on Friday that “team members who choose to remain unvaccinated will not be able to work at American Airlines.”
The airline warned employees in a separate memo last month following Biden’s order. “It looks like we will be affected by these federally mandated efforts to increase vaccination rates,” the carrier wrote. “What we do know is that the president’s actions underscore the importance for team members to be vaccinated against Covid-19 – and as soon as possible.” The American Pilots Union has estimated that about three in ten members are not vaccinated.
Because they qualify as government contractors, Alaska Airlines and JetBlue Airways have both told their employees that they need to be vaccinated by December 8.
“This means that employees can no longer opt for regular testing and masking instead of getting vaccinated,” Alaska Airlines said in a note to employees on Friday. Previously, Alaska Airlines had signaled its willingness to issue a vaccination warrant after the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) fully authorized the injections.
In August, United Airlines became the first major US carrier to tell its approximately 67,000 employees that they must be fully immunized by October 25 or face layoffs. “We have no greater responsibility to you and your colleagues than keeping you safe while you are at work, and the facts are crystal clear: Everyone is safer when everyone is vaccinated.” , wrote United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby and Chairman Brett Hart. in a note to staff at the time.
Everyone agreed that the “get vaccinated or otherwise” message worked. A little more than one after the tenure was announced, United announced that 99.5% of employees were vaccinated against Covid-19, not counting the roughly 3% of employees receiving exemptions for religious or medical reasons.
All Frontier Airlines direct employees have been fully vaccinated since October 1. Employees who choose not or cannot be vaccinated will be asked to provide proof of a negative Covid-19 test on a regular basis. “Now is the time to do what we can to help end Covid-19,” Frontier Airlines CEO Barry Biffle said in a statement last August. Budget airlines have also run promotions on free flights and bonus miles for vaccinated travelers.
Hawaiian Airlines CEO Peter Ingram told employees in August that they needed to be fully immunized by November 1. It’s no different, ”Ingram wrote in his note. Like United, the airline allows exceptions for medical or religious reasons.
Last week, U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein introduced a bill requiring passengers on domestic flights to be vaccinated or show evidence of a negative Covid-19 test before boarding a plane.