United Airlines will now require all of its 67,000 US employees to get vaccinated against Covid-19 by October 25th or they will risk termination. This is a first for major US travel agencies that will likely ramp up the pressure for rival services.
Airlines have mainly been offering incentives for vaccinated employees, like extra pay or time off for being inoculated. Delta Air Lines in May started requiring all new employees show proof of vaccination in order to get hired and United followed suit in June.
United’s requirements mark the strictest mandate implemented by a travel service in the US so far. Other companies like Facebook and Walmart have announced that they are requiring all corporate employees to show proof of vaccination before returning to the office.
United CEO Scott Kirby and President Brett Hart sent out a note to all employees this Friday detailing why this requirement is so important for the future of the company and air travel in general.
“We know some of you will disagree with this decision to require the vaccine for all United employees. But, we have no greater responsibility to you and your colleagues than to ensure your safety when you’re at work, and the facts are crystal clear: everyone is safer when everyone is vaccinated.”
The note detailed that United Airlines employees must upload proof that they received either two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or one dose of Johnson & Johnson’s single dose five weeks after federal officials give them approval, or by October 25th, whichever comes first.
The mandate will not apply to regional airlines that fly shorter express flights for United.
About 90% of all pilots and 80% of all flight attendants working for United Airlines claim to already be fully vaccinated, according to company officials. So the mandate is more so for employees working on the ground in the airports who see tens of thousands of flyers every day.
About 60% of all American Airlines pilots are also vaccinated, according to a letter from the company’s union, the Allied Pilots Association, which has been working to get more employees vaccinated.
The rise in Covid-19 cases last fall combined with the new highly-contagious Delta variant is motivating travel employees to create new ways to protect themselves from future travel. Time will tell what other agencies will follow United’s lead in terms of vaccination requirements.
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.