American, JetBlue, Alaska Airlines Require Employees to Get Vaccinated

Carolyn Crist

October 04, 2021

Editor's note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape's Coronavirus Resource Center.

American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, and JetBlue Airways have become the latest carriers to require employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

The airlines are classified as government contractors due to special flights and cargo contracts with the Department of Defense, so they fall under the Biden administration's vaccine mandate for federal workers, The Wall Street Journal reported.

"While we are still working through the details of the federal requirements, it is clear that team members who choose to remain unvaccinated will not be able to work at American Airlines," Doug Parker, the chairman and CEO of American Airlines, and Robert Isom, the company's president, wrote in a letter to employees on Friday.

"Team members who cannot be vaccinated because of a disability or sincerely held religious belief can request an accommodation," they wrote.

The two executives mentioned that the federal mandate "may be difficult," but that "it is what is required of our company, and we will comply."

The pilot union at American estimated that 4,200, or about 30%, of the airline's pilots aren't vaccinated, according to The Associated Press.

Employees based in the U.S. and some international crew members will need to get a shot. The memo didn't specify when employees need to be vaccinated or whether another option would be available, such as regular testing.

Alaska and JetBlue told workers on Friday that the deadline could be as soon as Dec. 8, when the White House has said contractors must be fully vaccinated.

"With the possible federal deadline for vaccination just before the December peak season, it's important that you schedule your shots now so that you will be able to continue working," JetBlue wrote in a memo. "At the end of the day, complying with the federal mandate is not a choice."

Delta and Southwest airlines said they were still evaluating Biden's order, according to Reuters. Delta previously announced that it would require vaccination or weekly testing, which would meet the Biden administration's mandate for large employers but not the stricter rules for federal contractors. Southwest told Reuters that it "continues to strongly encourage" employees to get vaccinated.

In August, United Airlines was the first major carrier to require its 67,000 workers to get vaccinated. On Thursday, the company said 320 of its 67,000 employees face termination for not getting vaccinated or seeking an exemption by the deadline earlier in the week, the AP reported.

Sources

The Wall Street Journal: "American Airlines, Alaska, JetBlue Orders Workers to Get Covid-19 Vaccinations."

The Associated Press: "American, other airlines will require employee vaccinations."

Reuters: "White House pushes U.S. airlines to mandate vaccines for staff by Dec. 8."

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