United Airlines proves that sticking to the rules can work, even as companies debate which carrots or sticks is best for getting staff vaccinated against Covid-19. Nearly all staff at the carrier have received their vaccinations after being threatened with unpaid leave.
United Airlines is on the verge of becoming the largest U.S. carrier with the most vaccined employees. Nearly 90 percent of United's 84,000 employees have had at least one jab since the threat of unpaid leaves for those without waivers.
The Chicago-based carrier's Executive Vice President for Human Resources Kate Gebo informed staff on Thursday that almost 20,000 employees had uploaded their vaccine cards since August when United mandated Covid-19 vaccinations. The airline also added an unpaid leave option for workers who have not received their first shot by September 27, earlier this month.
She stated that getting vaccinated is the best thing we can do to protect our health and each other against this deadly virus. Although Covid-19 has had a profound impact on our industry and daily lives, we know that vaccination is the key to our economic recovery as well as our personal health.
United Airlines is one of few U.S. airlines to require Covid-19 vaccinations for their staff. Other airlines, such as American Airlines and Delta Air Lines have used disincentives or incentives to discourage workers from getting the vaccines.
All the efforts may be in vain if the Biden administration's proposal for a national vaccine mandate for companies with more than 100 employees becomes law. These rules would apply to every major U.S. airline. The administration also mandates vaccines for government contractors rules, which could be used to protect airlines that have lucrative federal travel contracts.
All these staff vaccination moves are occurring as U.S. Airlines prepare for the September end deadline for federal payroll support. These funds are part of the $74billion in Covid-19 assistance the industry received and cover the vast majority of labor costs. Many people don't expect to see any staff cuts or furloughs once the relief ends, especially since summer operations at American, Southwest Airlines, and Spirit Airlines were hit by labor shortages.
Officials from the Biden administration said that they are considering whether to require Covid-19 vaccinations for all international travelers. This move could replace travel restrictions that limit visitors from Europe, such as those that restrict visits from certain countries.