United Airlines told pilots and flight attendants on Tuesday that only fully-vaccinated crew would be allowed to operate flights to some destinations that the carrier deems to be high-risk because of the COVID-19 situation in those countries.
According to the memo, the new rules would apply to pilots and flight attendants due to work flights to India, Brazil, Chile, Peru, Colombia and Argentina where cases remain stubbornly high and variants of concern pose an additional risk.
Due to come into force in August, only fully vaccinated crew might also only be allowed to operate flights to China and Taiwan if United can secure convince the local authorities to ease the current restrictions that apply to all aircrew operating flights to those territories.
Earlier this year, United’s chief executive Scott Kirby mooted the idea of making COVID-19 vaccination compulsory for all staff although the airline eventually abandoned that plan because other corporations didn’t intend to follow suit.
Delta Air Lines has also said it wouldn’t make vaccination mandatory for existing staff but chief executive Ed Bastian did raise the possibility of only using vaccinated crew on flights to some destinations.
Following in Delta’s footsteps, United has, however, required all new joiners since June 15 to provide proof of vaccination before being allowed to start work with the airline. United has also been incentivising flight attendants to get jabbed with the offer of extra paid time off.
The airline did, though, come to an agreement with the Air Line Pilots Association last month not to make COVID-19 mandatory for pilots. “Since the COVID vaccination is not mandatory, pilots who elect not to be vaccinated will not be subject to any discipline,” the agreement between United and the pilots union reads.
It’s unclear whether some pilots might construe being made ineligible to work some trips because of their vaccination status as a form of punishment.
Etihad Airways became the first airline in the world to only use fully vaccinated pilots and cabin crew on all flights, although most carriers have left the decision to have the vaccine up individual employees.
Photo Credit: Emiel Molenaa via Unsplash
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.