United Airlines will require its 67,000 US employees to get vaccinated against Covid-19 by October 25th or risk firing, a first for major US airlines that is likely to put pressure on rivals.
Airlines, including United, had opposed vaccine mandates for all workers and instead offered incentives such as extra pay or time off to get vaccinated. Delta Airlines in May, newly hired employees were required to provide proof of vaccination. United followed in June.
United’s requirement is one of the strictest vaccination regulations of any US company and involves employees who regularly interact with customers such as flight attendants and gate agents.
US companies like Facebook Registered employees must provide evidence of a vaccination to return to the office. Others only ask for it for certain employees. Walmart, for example, said last week that it will be required for company employeesbut no warehouse or warehouse workers. above said US Office staff must be vaccinated in order to return to work in person, but they no longer have to be required for drivers.
“We know some of you will disagree with this decision to require the vaccine for all United employees,” United CEO Scott Kirby and President Brett Hart said in an employee note Friday. “But we have no greater responsibility to you and your colleagues than to ensure your safety at work, and the facts are crystal clear: everyone is safer when everyone is vaccinated.”
Kirby said he wanted to in January Make Covid vaccines mandatory and that other companies should do the same.
Ending the Covid-19 pandemic is especially critical for airlines, which are among the industries hardest hit by the pandemic. While summer vacation bookings exceeded the expectations of most executives, the rapidly spreading Delta variant begins weigh on requestFrontier Airlines said earlier this week.
“In the past 16 months, Scott has sent dozens of letters of condolence to the family members of United employees who have died of COVID-19,” executives said. “We are determined to do everything in our power to prevent any other United family from receiving this letter.”
United Airlines employees must upload proof that they have received two cans Pfizer or Modern Vaccines or a dose of Johnson & Johnson‘s single dose five weeks after full approval by federal officials or by October 25, whichever comes first, executives said. Exceptions are made for specific health or religious reasons, United said.
The mandate does not apply to regional airlines flying shorter routes for United.
Many of United’s employees have already reported they have been vaccinated, including more than 90% of pilots and 80% of flight attendants, company officials said. United did not disclose the company’s overall vaccination rate.
This compares with about 60% of the American Airlines‘Pilots are being vaccinated,’ said an Aug. 5 letter to members of their union, the Allied Pilots Association, encouraging Airmen to get vaccinated.
United didn’t say what the company’s overall vaccination rate is.
The decision was driven in part by concerns about a spike in Covid-19 cases over the past fall and winter, company officials said.
The Air Line Pilots Association, which represents United’s more than 12,000 airmen, believes the mandate is legal. It said the “small number of pilots” who disagree with the policy or plan to remain unvaccinated should contact their chief pilot’s office.
The flight attendants’ union, the Association of Flight Attendants, urged cabin crew to get vaccinated following United’s announcement.
“COVID-19 is a threat,” the union told members. “There are proven strategies to mitigate this threat. Vaccinations are necessary to end the pandemic and the health and economic damage it has caused.”
For its part, American Airlines said it has not changed its policy of promoting, but not mandating, vaccines for employees. Delta Airlines said it “strongly” encourages workers to be vaccinated but does not require it for all of its employees, except for new hires. More than 73% of the approximately 75,000 employees are vaccinated, it said.
Southwest Airlines did not say whether it plans to prescribe vaccines but said its policy has not been changed.