Alaska Airlines will make unvaccinated employees attend vaccine education classes as part of an effort to boost COVID-19 vaccination rates amongst the Seattle-based airline’s workforce. Employees who refuse to attend the education program face the prospect of being fired but the airline stopped short of issuing a full vaccine mandate.
Last month, the airline told staffers in an internal memo that it was considering a vaccine mandate but would hold off until a COVID-19 vaccine had received full approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
A further announcement from the airline was widely expected after the FDA granted the Pfizer / BioNTech (Cominarty) vaccine full approval, although the actual measures being introduced don’t go nearly as far as the mandates issued by United or Hawaiian Airlines.
“Throughout the pandemic, the safety of our employees and guests has always come first, and we are committed to protecting our fellow employees, guests and loved ones from the impacts of the COVID-19 virus,” the airline said in a statement.
“We believe having as many people as possible vaccinated is the is best path for protection against COVID-19 and we will continue to strongly encourage our employees to be vaccinated.”
Around 75 per cent of Alaska’s workforce are now fully vaccinated against COVID-19 – a similar number to the percentage of employees at Delta Air Lines who are also vaccinated.
But while Alaska thinks it has made “good progress”, a spokesperson for the airline said it wants to increase vaccination rates even further.
Along with mandatory vaccine education classes, unvaccinated employees will be expected to wear a face mask at all times on duty and take regular COVID-19 tests. Special COVID-19 pay protection for employees who test positive for the virus or are identified as a close contact and are required to isolate will be stopped for unvaccinated employees.
As a further incentive, all vaccinated employees will receive a $200 vaccination bonus.
Alaska also said it would no longer hire new employees who aren’t fully vaccinated – a similar policy already adopted by Delta and United Airlines.
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.