As the travel industry becomes increasingly reliant on passengers being vaccinated to help ensure the safety of their own staff, airlines have started to mandate COVID-19 vaccines for those that work for them.
United Airlines has become the first major carrier in the United States to require that all of its staff are vaccinated.
The company has said that if any of its 67,000 US-based employees are not vaccinated by 25th October 2021, they will have their contracts with the airline terminated. Individuals who want to seek exemption from the mandate on health or religious grounds will need to provide sufficient documentation to back the claim. If their exemption is granted, they will be required to wear a face covering at all times.
Other airlines have followed suit, with discount carrier Frontier Airlines asking its employees to be vaccinated by October 1st. Employees who refuse the vaccine or who are exempt will have to get frequently tested for COVID. On Monday, Hawaiian Airlines also told its staff that they will be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Their CEO said that employees must be fully vaccinated by November 1st, however understood that some medical and religious exemptions may apply.
By comparison, Delta have asked for employees hired after May this year to show proof of vaccination, a decision which was also made by United in June. Delta are now strongly encouraging workers to get vaccinated however the advice is not mandatory for those who were hired before May this year.
To contrast, American Airlines are taking a different approach and have said that employees are strongly encouraged to get vaccinated. Those who are, will be “provided an additional day off in 2022” as well as given $50 through the company’s employee recognition platform, according to an American Airlines spokesperson.
The Airline Pilots Association (ALPA) have expressed concern over the decision. In a statement to Barron’s, the union said that the policy should have come out of labor negotiations.
“Employer-mandated vaccinations are an issue that must be bargained,” the union said.
In spite of this, airlines believe that ensuring that their employees are vaccinated is imperative so that their safety is not compromised, especially given the number of physical attacks which have been seen on board multiple aircraft recently.
“There is no greater demonstration of our values than ensuring the safety of others,” Peter Ingram, CEO of Hawaiian Airlines said.
Echoing this, United CEO Scott Kirby said that “We know some of you will disagree with this decision to require the vaccine for all United employees, but we have no greater responsibility to you and your colleagues than to ensure your safety when you’re at work, and the facts are crystal clear: everyone is safer when everyone is vaccinated.”
American Airlines CEO Doug Parker said that “In a world where we still have whatever it is, 40% of the United States not vaccinated for reasons only they can explain, requiring vaccinations to travel and not requiring vaccines to do anything else around the country isn’t something we’re looking to do.”
Although airline workers were not prioritised in the vaccine rollout by the government, companies have reported impressive statistics, with Delta stating that roughly 73% of its staff are vaccinated and 60% of American Airline’s pilots have the jab.