A U.S. judge had dismissed a case brought by seven Hawaiian Airlines employees who are attempting to challenge the carrier’s vaccination mandate. All seven had attempted to claim a religious exemption from vaccination but Hawaiian Airlines told them that their religious beliefs were “merely a personal preference” and denied their applications for exemption.
Hawaiian Airlines chief executive Peter Ingram first announced an employee vaccination certificate in August 2021 following a similar policy from United Airlines. The airline initially required employees to be vaccinated by November 2021 but offered an extension through to January 30, 2022, with a temporary testing policy.
Employees who still weren’t fully vaccinated by this point would either be terminated or they could choose to take a year-long period of unpaid leave with the loss of all benefits. As of early January, around 95 per cent of Hawaiian Air’s employees were fully vaccinated.
Some of the unvaccinated 5 per cent had applied for a religious or medical exemption.
A Hawaiian Airlines Captain refused to get vaccinated and applied for a religious exemption on the grounds that “his body is a temple of the Holy Spirit and that, given specific Scriptural commands found in the Bible, it should not be altered with an unwanted intrusion”.
A flight attendant also said that “her body was a temple of the Holy Spirit and that God had directed her not to take the vaccine as a result”.
A First Officer who had worked for Hawaiian Airlines for more than 10-years has refused the vaccine on the basis that doing so “would be ungrateful for God’s blessing of natural immunity”.
In each case, Hawaiian Airlines refused religious and medical exemptions and issued the employees with an ultimatum. Get vaccinated or face the prospect of dismissal.
The group had asked U.S. District Judge Jill Otake to issue a temporary restraining against Hawaiian Airlines to prevent the mandate from being enforced.
But Judge Otake threw out the case on Wednesday after concluding that various other courts had already explored the same arguments in great detail and each time they had ruled that loss of employment as a result of a vaccine mandate does not constitute “irrable harm”.
“At this point in the pandemic, the soundness of vaccination as a tool to slow the transmission of COVID-19 and to prevent serious illness and death cannot be reasonably disputed,” Judge Otake noted in his ruling.
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.