Delta Air Lines chief executive Ed Bastian told NBC’s Today Show on Thursday that airline employees like flight attendants and gate agents are frontline essential workers and should be given priority access to a COVID-19 vaccine once one or more is approved by the Federal Drug Administration. A decision on whether to grant emergency use authorization for the Pfizer / BionTech vaccine is expected before the end of the year.
As to whether Delta would require employees to have a vaccine in order to be allowed to work, Bastian simply said the airline would “strongly encourage” workers to have the jab and that compulsory vaccination might be necessary for international travel.
“We are looking at, and certainly talking to the authorities about, first and foremost, how do we get our employees vaccinated. I think for international travel it will become a requirement, whether it’s the airline that does it or some international authorities that do it,” Bastian commented.
“We’re going to strongly encourage that airline employees all get vaccinated. Airline employees are frontline workers and will be given priority as a frontline worker access to the vaccine.”
“Myself, I can’t wait to get vaccinated and we’re going to strongly encourage that all our people get that protection, that inoculation, against this deadly virus,” he continued.
The only airline to have so far made a decision on compulsory vaccination is Australian flag carrier Qantas whose chief executive said he respected the individual rights of people not to get vaccinated but that they would not be welcome onboard one of its international flights.
Qantas doesn’t expect to start operating regularly scheduled international flights until late 2021, at which point it is hoped that several COVID-19 vaccinations have been approved for use around the world and that anyone who wants to have been vaccinated will have received the jab.
Many airlines, however, are deferring decisions on so-called COVID passports that would show proof of vaccination to their respective governments.
Full details of how vaccines will be rolled out are yet to be decided in many countries, although it’s widely expected that very elderly people, care home residents and healthcare workers will get priority access above other groups.
The union that represents flight attendants at Air Canada, however, has called on the Canadian government to offer the vaccine to aircrew as soon as it’s approved because they are essential workers who cannot work from home or socially distance in order to protect themselves from infection.
Some cabin crew at Etihad Airways have already been inoculated with a Chinese developed COVID-19 vaccine that received emergency use authorization in the United Arab Emirates in September while Phase III trials are still ongoing.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.