American Airlines is the latest airline to announce its employees will need to be vaccinated to work for the airline. Coming off the heels of a new mandate from the US government requiring employees of federal contractors to be vaccinated, American has now informed its employees the time has come.
American Airlines announced vaccination mandate
On Friday, CEO Doug Parker and President Robert Isom sent a letter to its US employees announcing the new requirement, seen by Simple Flying. The key part of the letter is that the federal vaccine mandate will require all US-based American Airlines employees and certain international crew members to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 without a regular testing alternative.
The letter followed up with the following:
“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.”
There are opportunities for exemption for those who face a disability or “sincerely held religious belief.” However, these exemptions are expected to be limited.
A mandate from the government
Guidelines from the US government require contractors to ensure that all their employees are fully vaccinated for COVID-19, barring certain legal exemptions, by December 8th, 2021. Many different entities in the US are considered contractors.
American Airlines has agreements with US government covering flying. This includes the City Pair Program, the Civil Reserve Air Fleet program, and Department of Defense cargo contracts. As a result, American has to abide by the mandate.
While American Airlines has not released final details regarding dates for compliance, they will likely fall in place on or before December 8th to ensure the airline complies with the mandate. More information will come in the coming days and weeks.
Until now, American had not mandated vaccinations for employees. The company has heavily encouraged its employees to get fully vaccinated through various incentive programs.
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Employee vaccination mandates are becoming the norm
United Airlines has been the most vocal and ahead of the game regarding employee vaccination requirements. There is plenty of evidence from United that mandates work, as it has not seen mass retirements or resignations but instead has continued to see its employee vaccination rate trend closer and closer to 100% without straining its operations or workforce.
Other airlines, like Frontier and Hawaiian, have also announced vaccination mandates. Delta Air Lines took a different approach, heavily incentivizing vaccinations and even adding a $200 monthly surcharge for unvaccinated employees who get health insurance through the company.
American Airlines was one airline that sought to heavily encourage vaccinations instead of institute a mandate. American’s government contracts can be incredibly lucrative, and rather than lose those contracts to its competitors. It intends to comply with the directive. Other airlines are also likely to follow.
The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has given full approval to the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, now being marketed as Comirnaty. This was the first COVID-19 vaccine to receive full FDA approval. Others are expected to follow given various research and ongoing studies showing the effectiveness of the vaccines in reducing hospitalizations and deaths, especially among the most at-risk populations.
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 64.6% of all Americans have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This includes those under the age of 12 who are not yet eligible to receive the vaccine. Of those age 12 and over, 75.6% of Americans have received at least one dose of the vaccine.
Just based on the statistics, a majority of airline employees are already vaccinated. The mandate now is to get the remaining workers vaccinated to continue reducing the risk and spread of COVID-19.
With the release of the COVID-19 vaccines, it started to become clear that some airline employees would have to get vaccinated. This includes pilots and flight attendants flying to various countries that would likely institute such requirements. American has already indicated some of its destinations would require fully vaccinated flight attendants to work those flights, barring unvaccinated crewmembers from selecting some trips.