United Airlines will require 67,000 U.S. workers to be vaccinated against Covid no later than Oct. 25, or risk being terminated. This is a first for major U.S carriers and will likely increase pressure on competitors.
United and other airlines have so far refused to mandate vaccinations for their employees. Instead, they offer incentives such as extra pay or time off in order to inoculate. In May, Delta Air Lines required all new employees to provide proof of vaccination. United followed the United example in June.
United's mandate is the most stringent vaccine requirement from any U.S. company. It also includes employees who regularly interact with customers, such as flight attendants or gate agents.
Facebook, an American company, has announced that employees must prove they have been immunized in order to return to work. Others require them only for certain workers. Walmart last week stated that they will require it for both corporate staff and managers. Uber stated that U.S. employees will need to get vaccinated in order to resume in-person work, but did not require them for drivers.
Meatpacker Tyson Foods stated this week that 120,000 of its U.S. employees must have full vaccinations this year. However, more than 50,000 are already vaccinated.
"We are aware that some of you may disagree with our decision to require the vaccine in all United employees," Scott Kirby, United CEO, and President Brett Hart stated Friday in an employee letter. "But, we don't have any greater responsibility to you or your coworkers than to ensure your safety at work. The facts are clear: everyone is safer if everyone is vaccinated.
Employees at United Airlines must show proof they have received two doses Pfizer or Moderna vaccinations, or one dose of Johnson & Johnson's single-dose vaccine five weeks after federal officials approve them. This is either by Oct. 25 or the first time. United stated that exceptions may be made for religious or health reasons.
Regional airlines flying shorter routes to United are exempt from the mandate.
According to United officials, many of its employees have reported that they have been vaccinated. This includes about 90% of pilots and 80% flight attendants. United did not disclose the overall vaccination rate of their company.
According to an Aug. 5, letter sent to members by the Allied Pilots Association, approximately 60% of American Airlines pilots have been vaccinated. The union encouraged aviators get vaccinated.
United did not disclose the overall vaccination rate of the company.
Officials from the company said that concerns over increases in Covid-19 cases during fall and winter last year were partly behind this decision.
American Airlines, Southwest Airlines and Delta Air Lines are competitors. They didn't immediately indicate whether they would mandate vaccines.