Hundreds Of United Airlines Staff Hand In Covid Vaccination Proof After Company Threatens To Fire Them

Nearly half of those employees submitted proof of vaccination two days after United Airlines announced its plans to fire 600 workers for not complying with the Covid-19 mandate. The airline made the announcement Thursday as it prepares to enforce strict vaccine regulations in the aviation industry.

United Airlines planes can be seen at Newark International Airport, New Jersey on September 29, 2021. Getty Images via Anadolu Agency

The Key Facts

United Airlines will cut ties with 320 employees who are not vaccinated as of Thursday. This is down from 593 Tuesday. A spokesperson for the company told Forbes. This is due to late uploading of vaccination records by employees. United stated to Forbes that the company expects this number to continue dropping as more staff inform them of their vaccination status. It's unclear how many staff ran to get inoculated this week, given the threat of termination.


United granted staff the right to request religious and medical exemptions from the vaccine mandate. However, it plans to put those employees on unpaid personal or medical leave. The airline stated earlier this month that unvaccinated employees in customer-facing positions will be on leave until the Covid-19 pandemic has subsided. However, operations staff who do not work with customers can return once United develops new public health rules.

Big Number

99.5%. This is the percentage of U.S-based United Airlines employees who have been vaccinated against Covid-19. It does not include the 3% of staff who were granted exemptions. About 67,000 employees work for the airline in the United States.

Important Quote

United believes that our vaccine policy continues to meet all requirements.

Important Background

United announced an early August mandate for coronavirus vaccinations after the more contagious Delta variant of the virus swept across the United States, triggering another wave in infections. Many employees have been vaccinated by other large employers such as Microsoft, Tyson Foods, Disney and Tyson Foods. Biden's administration saw employer mandates for vaccines as a way to increase the country's stagnant vaccination rate and prevent outbreaks. Biden requested that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration draft a rule that would require American businesses with more than 100 employees to mandate vaccinations or Covid-19 testing every week.

Surprising Fact

United Airlines has one of most stringent vaccination policies in the industry. However, other airlines have encouraged staff to be vaccinated as commercial aviation slowly recovers from the collapse of air travel after the pandemic. Hawaiian Airlines requires that staff get vaccinated. Frontier Airlines and Delta Airlines have vaccine or-test rules. Southwest Airlines and Alaska Airlines offer monetary incentives. Delta charges unvaccinated employees $200 more per month for their health insurance. American Airlines and other carriers are suspending pay protections to unvaccinated staff who require quarantine.

What to Watch

Six United employees filed a lawsuit last week against their employer. They claimed United failed to provide reasonable accommodations for employees with medical or religious exemptions, and moved to place them on unpaid leaves. United stated to Forbes that it will vigorously defend our policy and that its vaccination policy protects customers as well as staff.

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United Airlines Employees Who Receive Religious Exemption from Covid Vaccine Mandat Will Be Required To Take Unpaid Time (Forbes).

Flying the vaccinated: What major airlines have to say about employee mandates (Washington Post).