United Airlines To Mandate Vaccines For Employees

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Varun Hukeri General Assignment & Analysis Reporter
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United Airlines will require all employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by late October or risk termination, becoming the first major U.S. airline to implement such a mandate.

“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 Friday in a memo viewed by CBS News. “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.”

United employees reportedly must send an image of their vaccine card proving they are fully vaccinated with an FDA-approved vaccine — either two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine — by Oct. 25 or face potential termination. But the executives noted exceptions will be made for employees with health issues or religious reasons.

Employees who have already received their shots and submit proof of vaccination before Sept. 20 will be eligible for “an additional day of pay,” the United executives added.

United officials said the vast majority of employees have already been vaccinated, including more than 90% of pilots and 80% of flight attendants, CNBC reported. Kirby said earlier in January he believes companies should require employees to get vaccinated.

United’s vaccine mandate is one of the strictest from a U.S. company and includes all employees who interact with customers, such as flight attendants and gate agents. The airline has around 67,000 employees in the U.S. according to CNBC. (RELATED: Here Are The Major US Corporations Mandating Vaccines For Their Employees)

Airline companies saw their pre-tax profit margins plummet nearly 60% in 2020 as the pandemic and associated restrictions ravaged the economy and limited commercial air travel, according to the industry group Airlines for America. The number of domestic flights this summer surpassed expectations, but airlines are concerned about the fast-spreading delta variant, CNBC reported.

“Over the last 16 months, Scott has sent dozens of condolences letters to the family members of United employees who have died from COVID-19,” the United executives said in Friday’s memo to employees. “We’re determined to do everything we can to try to keep another United family from receiving that letter.”

Other airline companies have not implemented a vaccine mandate for all employees, but many are instead offering incentives for employees to get vaccinated.

Delta Airlines is mandating the vaccine only for new hires and said its “strongly encouraging” employees to get vaccinated. American Airlines also encourages employees to get the vaccine, though CEO Doug Parker told The New York Times a mandate would be “incredibly cumbersome.”