United Airlines will offer one of the most generous vaccination incentive schemes in the airline industry in a new drive to encourage vaccine-hesitant flight attendants to get the COVID-19 jab within the next few weeks. The Chicago-based carrier will, however, stop short of making vaccination mandatory for either new or existing employees.
Chief executive Scott Kirby said earlier this year that he favored making vaccination compulsory, although he added the important caveat that United would only go down that route if other companies made inoculation mandatory.
With United’s main rivals not requiring mandatory vaccination, Kirby has backed away from that idea and instead the airline will now offer flight attendants up to three days of extra vacation leave. The quicker flight attendants get jabbed, the more vacation leave they accrue.
Flight attendants who are already fully vaccinated and those who schedule their first dose by June 9 will get the full three days awarded to them. Meanwhile, flight attendants who schedule their first dose between June 10 and July 1 will get awarded two days of additional vacation leave to take in 2022.
But flight attendants who fail to schedule their first dose by July 1 won’t get any additional vacation leave. The only exception will be flight attendants on extended periods of absence.
According to the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA-CWA), the scheme is three times better than a similar incentive offered to flight attendants at American Airlines and 40 per cent better than Delta’s vaccination incentive program.
The program is different to United’s incentive scheme for pilots which offers up to 13 hours of additional pay. The airline says this is because it recognizes specific licensing issues facing pilots that require them to stay clear from work for at least 48-hours after each dose of the vaccine.
Last month, Delta Air Lines confirmed plans to require all new employees to be COVID-19 vaccinated unless they qualify for an accommodation. The Atlanta-based airline didn’t extend the rule to existing employees but said uptake for the jab had so far been high.
At least 60 per cent of current Delta staffers already fully vaccinated and chief executive Ed Bastian suggested the workforce was close to achieving “herd immunity”.
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 used by some of the biggest names in journalism.