Alaska Airlines put employees on notice on Wednesday that it is mulling a vaccine mandate and that the delta variant meant it may soon be necessary to make the shot compulsory for nearly all workers. United Airlines, Frontier and Hawaiian Airlines have already announced vaccine mandates as the highly infectious delta variant drives a new spike in cases.
In an internal memo, Alaska told workers that a mandate would only be introduced once the Food and Drug Administration grants a COVID-19 vaccine full approval. The vaccines are currently being administered under an emergency use approval.
The FDA, however, is likely to give the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine full approval in the next few weeks. United Airlines ordered employees to get vaccinated within five weeks of a vaccine winning full FDA approval or by October 25 – whichever date comes first.
Frontier wants all staffers to be fully vaccinated by as early as October 1, while Hawaiian says employees face potential dismissal if they can’t show proof of full vaccination by November 1.
Some airlines, however, remain concerned about issuing a vaccine mandate when the shots are still being administered under an emergency use approval. Delta chief executive Ed Bastian told CNBC last week to “stay tuned” on the issue of a vaccine mandate but said doing so before full approval would be “difficult”.
Both American Airlines and Southwest Airlines have said they would like to continue encouraging employees to get vaccinated and have not yet proposed a mandate.
But in its latest memo to staff, Alaska Airlines said the mandate should be considered under its continuing duty of care to keep employees and customers safe.
“As an employer with a duty to keep you safe and given the contagiousness and health risks of the COVID-19 virus and its variants, we are within our rights to make this decision and to ask you for information about your vaccine status,” the memo explained.
or now, however, no U.S.-based airline has plans to make vaccination mandatory for passengers and United chief executive Scott Kirby doesn’t think the federal government will roll out a vaccine policy for domestic flights. The Biden administration is, however, considering making vaccination compulsory for passengers on international services.
Such. amove would pave the way for travel bans to be lifted on Europe and the UK, as well as India, Brazil, and South Africa. The current travel bans on China and Iran could still remain for some time.
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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.