Thousands of American Airlines employees remain potentially unvaccinated after a controversial vaccine mandate deadline quietly passed on January 4. In an internal memo, the airline revealed on Friday that 96% of workers had now reported their fully vaccinated status or applied for an exemption from the mandate.
The Dallas Fort Worth-based airline has delayed any attempt to discipline or fire employees who haven’t complied with the mandate but will instead insist that unvaccinated workers wear face masks and frequently self-test for COVID-19.
The new rules, which will come into effect on January 17, are a stop-gap while American Airlines awaits a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the legality of vaccine mandates for large employees.
Along with the masking and testing requirements, workers who have applied for a religious or medical exemption will need to certify their health on a weekly basis.
American Airlines issued U.S.-based workers with the vaccination mandate in October 2021 after President Biden told companies that do business with the federal government that they could lose lucrative contracts if they didn’t order their employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
The decision to back the mandate proved controversial and set AA on a collision course with its pilots union who argued that flight crew have an ‘alternative means of compliance’ with the mandate – such as regular COVID-19 testing and compulsory mask-wearing.
The White House originally set a December 8, 2021 deadline but this was quickly pushed back as legal challenges were mounted.
As of September 30, 2021, American Airlines employed 119,800 workers worldwide. The mandate only applies to U.S.-based employees and the airline is actually barred from requesting vaccination records in some jurisdictions. The mandate also does not apply to 25,800 workers who are employed at regional subsidiaries.
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.