The union that represents more than 24,000 flight attendants at American Airlines has warned that the Dallas Fort Worth-based carrier still doesn’t have a “detailed plan” for how it will implement President Biden’s far-reaching vaccine mandate for federal contractors.
American Airlines confirmed that the mandate did apply to its employees on October 1 and told workers that they must be fully vaccinated by December 8 if “they wish to remain” working for the carrier.
Since then, the airline has clarified that workers must have received the final dose of a two-shot vaccine such as Cominarty (Pfizer) or Moderna, or the single-shot J&J Janssen vaccine by November 24. This is a full two weeks before the deadline but is in line with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance on what constitutes someone being fully vaccinated.
The Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA), however, warns that management has communicated very little about how it intends to implement the mandate.
“Management has failed to communicate a detailed plan regarding the vaccine mandate,” the union told its members in a new memo on Monday. “It is no surprise that the vaccine mandate was coming, and the November 24th deadline is approaching quickly,” the memo complained.
“There is no time for APFA and other Unions at American to continue speculating on this important issue. We all need answers from management, and we need them now.”
The airline has, though, confirmed that employees who are granted a vaccine exemption for medical reasons or due to a sincerely held religious belief will be allowed to continue working. APFA says the carrier is “exploring all possible options” for reasonable accommodations that will allow vaccine exempt employees to carry on working.
American Airlines hasn’t revealed what those accommodations might be but they are likely to include frequent testing at the employee’s expense and a requirement to wear better quality medical-grade face masks.
The decision is in contrast to the one taken by United Airlines which sought to put some exempt employees like pilots, flight attendants and gate agents on indefinite unpaid leave.
A federal judge has blocked United from suspending exempt workers by issuing a temporary restraining order why legal case over the airline’s reasonable accommodation process is fully heard. The judge said the restraining order had been granted to prevent the risk of “irreparable injury”.
The order is effective through October 26.
The flight attendants union has advocated for its members to get vaccinated but acknowledges that some crew have “strongly held” views on the topic.
The Allied Pilots Association (APA), however, has campaigned for an “alternative means of compliance” such as routine testing. President Biden’s executive order doesn’t allow for such an opt-out for federal contractors, although another mandate for companies with more than 100 employees is likely to include a routine testing alternative.
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.