The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) says it is confident an employee vaccine mandate is not going to lead to travel chaos over the Thanksgiving travel period as the deadline for workers including Transportation Security Administration (TSA) airport security screeners to get the COVID-19 shot passed.
On Monday, which marks the date by which DHS employees were expected to be fully vaccinated, the agency confirmed that the mandate compliance rate had now hit 93 per cent amongst eligible employees.
With the majority of employees already fully vaccinated and others on the way to meeting the fully vaccinated requirement, the DHS said it didn’t anticipate any staffing crunch as a result of the vaccine mandate.
Travelers, however, are still being warned to expect long lines at airport security screening points across the United States in the run up to Thanksgiving and to factor extra time into their travel plans.
On Sunday, the TSA said it screened 2.21 million travellers at airport checkpoints – close to Friday’s pandemic record and less than 5 per cent off the number the TSA screened on the same day in 2019.
Like many industries, the TSA has been desperately trying to recruit additional staff over the summer and staffing woes at some airports could still be the cause of traveler woe over the next few weeks.
Vaccination rates at the agency have shot up since early last month when around 40 per cent of DHS employees were still unvaccinated. The lagging vaccination rates had caused real fears of mass employee walkouts at the deadline passed on November 22.
Advocates for vaccine mandates have once again pointed out that the mandate has once again worked. Within the travel industry, United Airlines achieved near-universal vaccination by becoming the first U.S. airline to issue an employee vaccine mandate in the summer.
American Airlines and Southwest Airlines have pushed back the deadline for their own vaccine mandates until the new year over fears that the order could cause staffing shortages and walkouts over the busy holiday travel period.
Although the deadline for DHS workers has now passed, the agency won’t move to dismiss unvaccinated employees just yet. Workers will go through a counselling process that will aim to convince them to get the shot before disciplinary action is taken.
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.