Nearly 7,000 United Airlines employees are still to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as a deadline set by the company for its workers to have had the shot fast approaches.
On Thursday, United’s executive vice president of human resources Kate Gebo revealed that 90 per cent of all United’s U.S.-based staff had now uploaded documentation to prove they have been jabbed against COVID-19.
With a U.S. workforce of around 67,000 employees, that still leaves around 6,800 still to get the shot. They have until September 27 to prove they have been fully vaccinated, although they can get the second dose of a two-dose vaccine on that date, as well as the J&J Janssen single-shot vaccine.
Last week, the airline warned frontline staffers who were seeking a religious exemption from vaccination that they would be placed on unpaid leave until the threat of COVID-19 had significantly receded. Office workers will be required to wear face masks and get regular COVID-19 tests.
“You’ve heard us say this time and time again – the safety of our entire United family is our top priority,” Gebo wrote in the memo. “That’s why we are requiring vaccines for employees: getting vaccinated is the most important thing each of us can do to protect ourselves and protect each other from this deadly virus”.
“Though COVID-19 had deeply impacted our industry and our daily lives, we are certain the road to economic recovery and personal health hinges on vaccination,” the memo continued.
United was the first airline in the United States to issue a vaccination mandate and its tough approach to requiring vaccination has sparked praise from President Joe Biden.
Some of the United’s biggest competitors haven’t gone nearly as far as requiring employees to get vaccinated. American Airlines says it is still assessing the impact that Biden’s plan to force businesses with more than 100 employees to issue vaccine mandates might affect its business.
The total number of unvaccinated employees will include workers who have successfully argued they should be granted a religious exemption, as well as a small number of staffers who have a disability that prevents them from being inoculated.
On Thursday, Virgin Australia joined the growing ranks of airlines issuing employee vaccine mandates following consultation with trade unions. Dutch carrier KLM, however, says it doesn’t have the power to mandate vaccination but will ask pilots and cabin crew to let the company know their vaccination status so that they don’t send aircrew to destinations where they might be banned.
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.