Airlines: Vaccine Mandates Won't Disrupt Holiday Flights

Ralph Ellis

October 25, 2021

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Executives with American Airlines and Southwest Airlines said Thursday that they won't immediately fire employees who aren't vaccinated in December and don't anticipate disruptions during the busy holiday season, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Major airlines, which are considered federal contractors, must meet the Biden administration's Dec. 8 deadline to vaccinate workers. Several airline unions have pushed back on the mandate and suggested that holiday flights could be disrupted due to staffing shortages if unvaccinated workers are fired.

American and Southwest leaders announced that they plan to allow employees with medical and religious exemptions to continue working. In addition, employees with pending accommodation requests can continue to work while they wait for approval.

Unvaccinated airline workers will be accommodated in the workplace with a combination of testing, masking, and social distancing, the newspaper reported.

"We want our employees to know that nobody is going to lose their job on December 9 if we're not perfectly in compliance," Gary Kelly, CEO and chairman for Southwest, said Thursday.

"It is a work in progress, and we're going to continue working in good faith to meet the requirements of the executive order," he said.

Kelly added that he favors vaccination but is sympathetic with those who oppose vaccine mandates and doesn't believe that Southwest should order employees to be vaccinated, the newspaper reported. At the same time, the government is Southwest's biggest customer, he said, so the airline must follow federal orders.

"We didn't ask for the mandate, but we got it," he said.

American President Robert Isom said Thursday that the company doesn't "expect anybody to leave American Airlines."

In addition, American CEO Doug Parker said that he has grown more confident in recent weeks that only a small number of people won't be vaccinated or will have an approved exemption by the deadline.

"We're going to be where the others are, which is virtually everyone vaccinated," he said.


The Wall Street Journal: "American, Southwest Say Vaccine Mandate Won't Disrupt Flights."


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