American Airlines told all of its U.S.-based workers on Friday that they would have to get vaccinated against COVID-19 or face having their employment terminated. The decision to issue a vaccine mandate follows a change to federal rules for government contractors which could have seen AA lose billions of dollars in contracts if it had refused to issue a vaccine mandate.
Issuing a vaccine mandate with no alternative means of compliance such as regular testing and compulsory mask-wearing could put American on a collision course with their pilot’s union which claims some flight crew are scared to get vaccinated because of the risk of “career ending” side effects.
The Allied Pilots Association (APA) which represents AA’s 16,00 strong pilot workforce warned of the potential for Christmas travel chaos if pilots were forced to get vaccinated. While APA says most pilots will choose to get vaccinated, the risk of mass terminations could still spell disaster for holiday travel.
American chief executive Doug Parker and President Isom sent a joint memo to staffers on Friday explaining why the change in federal rules now meant they must get vaccinated or face termination.
“While we are still working through the details of the federal requirements, it is clear that team members who choose to remain unvaccinated will not be able to work at American Airlines,” the memo explained.
The White House has set a December 8 deadline for airlines to comply with the rule change.
“We have consistently advocated that all American Airlines team members — and all eligible individuals around the world — should get vaccinated, and we appreciate the tens of thousands of team members who did so during our incentive program,” the memo continued.
“For those colleagues who did not, we realize this federal mandate may be difficult, but it is what is required of our company, and we will comply.”
Alaska Airlines and jetBlue told employees earlier on Friday that they too would be requiring employee vaccination in order to comply with the demands of the Biden administration.
Both Delta and Southwest have, however, so far failed to refuse vaccine mandates.
United Airlines has managed to achieve a vaccination rate of 99.5 per cent amongst non-exempt U.S.-based employees with its strict mandate. Around 320 unvaccinated United employees face being terminated.
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.