Air Canada is joining a growing band of airlines mandating COVID-19 vaccinations for current and future employees. The airline’s workers will now have until October 30 to confirm their vaccination status with Air Canada.
October 30 vaccination deadline for Air Canada workforce
After a slow start, the ranks of airlines making workforce COVID-19 vaccinations compulsory is swelling. On Tuesday, Simple Flying reported SWISS International Airlines was mandating aircrew vaccinations. Other airlines taking a compulsory workforce COVID-19 vaccination stance include United Airlines, Singapore Airlines, and Frontier Airlines.
“Since the beginning of the pandemic, Air Canada has been a leader in the adoption of science-based measures in response to COVID-19,” said an Air Canada statement issued on Wednesday.
“The decision to require all employees of Air Canada mainline, Air Canada Rouge, and Air Canada Vacations to be fully vaccinated and report their vaccination status is another initiative to ensure the safety and well-being of all employees and customers.”
Increased flying increases the risk at Air Canada
The decision comes as Canada cautiously re-opens its borders. In response, Air Canada has scaled up its North American flying. The airline recently announced 55 routes and 34 destinations in the US, with up to 220 daily flights between the US and Canada.
Further afield, Air Canada also announced the resumption of 17 routes to 11 destinations across the Atlantic. With the expanded schedule comes the problem of negotiating differing vaccination requirements in each country Air Canada flies to.
As Air Canada increases its flying, the health risks to its workforce also rise. Two-thirds of Canada’s population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19. But that leaves millions of unvaccinated Canadians able to board local Air Canada flights.
On the weekend, authorities told passengers and crew on an Air Canada flight to Kelowna to self-monitor for symptoms after a passenger was later found to have COVID-19.
Proof of testing and vaccination status requirements before boarding most Air Canada international flights limits the risk of this event occurring on international sectors.
Air Canada’s rivals also make decisions on workforce vaccinations
The Canadian Government is behind Air Canada’s recent vaccination decision. Canada’s Government requires all employees in the federally regulated air, rail, and marine transportation sectors to be vaccinated by the end of October 2021. Air Canada says testing will not be offered to its workforce as an alternative to vaccinations.
“While Air Canada will fulfill its duties to accommodate employees who for valid reasons, such as medical conditions, cannot be vaccinated, failure to be fully vaccinated by October 30, 2021, will have consequences,” Air Canada’s statement reads.
Except for those who qualify for accommodation, the airline notes consequences include enforced unpaid leave and termination.
Competitor WestJet has noted the Canadian Government vaccination ruling regarding federally regulated employees in the airline sector. WestJet has around 6,000 active employees and a further 4,000 on leave or furlough.
While yet to make a public announcement, WestJet confirms it is in discussions with employee and labor groups about COVID-19 vaccinations. However, WestJet notes it is “committed to working together to ensure the successful implementation of the policy by late October.”
Meanwhile, Toronto-based Porter Airlines beat both its larger competitors in announcing a vaccination rule for its employees.
“Aligning with Porter’s restart of service on September 8, 2021, team members must be fully vaccinated or present a negative COVID-19 test administered within 72 hours of the start of their shift,” said Porter Airlines last week.
While Porter Airlines is allowing employees to fly on presentation of test results, that loophole is expected to close soon.