Mateusz Maszczynski is a serving international flight attendant with experience…
It would be perfectly lawful for American Airlines to require employees to have a vaccine against COVID-19 once one becomes available according to the union that represents flight attendants at the Dallas Fort Worth-based carrier. The Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) issued the warning as pressure mounts on airlines to mandate vaccination as a condition of travel for both passengers and staff.
American Airlines, however, says no decision has yet been made whether it will actually require employees to receive the Coronavirus vaccine following the Federal Drug Administration’s (FDA) decision to issue an emergency use approval for the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine.
The flight attendant union said it was continuing to “advocate for the safest course of action for our members”, while a spokesperson for American Airlines said the carrier was working with health experts as it determined the best way to provide employee access to COVID-19 vaccines.
APFA did not say what position it held on the prospect of compulsory vaccination but it did tell flight attendants that American, like any other airline, would have to consider religious accommodation requests, as well as medical accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act if it decided to push the vaccine on workers.
Nearly two weeks ago, Delta Air Lines chief executive Ed Bastian suggested that compulsory vaccination would be required for flight attendants working on long-haul international flights. At the very least, Bastian said employees would be “strongly encouraged” to have the vaccine once it becomes available.
When exactly flight attendants and other airline employees will be offered the vaccine, however, remains the big question. Bastian believes airline workers should get priority access to the vaccine but APFA says it could still be some time before the rollout reaches American’s flight attendants.
The priority is to vaccinate high-risk healthcare workers and residents of long-term care facilities before the jab can be made available to other groups. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is then considering prioritizing workers in essential and critical industries like aviation, although the rollout might vary from state to state.
Even then, aviation workers could be waiting behind other essential workers like firefighters and police officers.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA), however, has backed calls for airline workers to be near the front of the line, saying the successful worldwide distribution of the vaccinate might depend on it.
“We are not asking for aviation workers to be on top of the list, but we need governments to ensure that transportation workers are considered as essential when vaccine roll-out plans are developed,” commented Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s outgoing Director General earlier this week.
“The transportation of the COVID-19 vaccines has already begun, and as calculations show, it will require the equivalent of 8,000 Boeing 747 freighter aircraft for global distribution. It is therefore essential that we have the qualified workforce in place to ensure a functioning logistics chain.”
Mateusz Maszczynski is a serving international flight attendant with experience at a major Middle East and European airline. Mateusz is passionate about the aviation industry and helping aspiring flight attendants achieve their dreams. Cabin crew recruitment can be tough, ultra-competitive and just a little bit confusing - Mateusz has been there and done that. He's got the low down on what really works.