Doug Parker, chief executive of American Airlines has refused to follow the lead of United Airlines which became the first U.S.-based airline to mandate the COVID-19 vaccine for employees on Friday. United’s workers who are based in the U.S. will have until October 25 at the very latest to get fully vaccinated or face the prospect of being dismissed.
But in an interview with the New York Times, Parker dismissed the idea of making the jab compulsory and instead insisted that incentivizing vaccine takeup would remain American’s policy… at least for the time being.
When asked if AA could mandate employees to get the Coronavirus shot, Parker replied: “What we’re doing there, and what we’ve been doing from the start, is putting great incentives in for our employees to be vaccinated.”
“Anyone who is vaccinated by August 31 at American Airlines gets one day of extra vacation in 2022. They get a $50 gift card. And that, we think, is the right way to motivate people to get vaccinated, and we’re pushing that really hard.”
“So that’s how we intend to do this. We certainly encourage it everywhere we can, encourage it for our customers and our employees, but we’re not putting mandates in place.”
American Airlines hasn’t publicly shared how many of its employees are currently vaccinated but Delta has revealed that around 73 per cent of its U.S.-based workforce is now fully vaccinated. Delta is also encouraging but not mandating vaccination for existing employees but new staffers must provide proof of getting the shot before being allowed to start work.
United also had a similar policy for new employees but American Airlines hasn’t been tempted to copy either Delta or United.
The Association of Flight Attendants (AFA-CWA), which represents United’s crewmembers (but not AA’s), welcome United’s vaccine mandate saying the shot was the “best defense against COVID-19 and the extension of harm”.
“This pandemic has forced our industry to dramatically adapt to an ever-evolving set of circumstances. With all that we have been through since the beginning of the pandemic, all that we have fought for and won, there is now too much at risk to not ensure the safety and well-being of United Flight Attendants,” the union said on Friday.
“COVID-19 is a threat. There are proven strategies to mitigate that threat. Vaccination is necessary to end the pandemic and the health and economic harm it has caused.”
Photo Credit: Markus Mainka / Shutterstock.com
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.