Hawaiian Airlines is to finally drop its controversial employee vaccine mandate from October 1 and allow unvaccinated workers to return to work for the first time since February 2022.
The airline says the mandate helped it achieve an employee COVID-19 vaccine rate of 96 percent but around 200 workers who opted to take an indefinite period of unpaid leave rather than get the vaccine will now be allowed back to work.
Hawaiian Airlines is also expected to invite nearly 100 ex-employees who quit their jobs in protest at the mandate to apply for their old jobs back.
In an internal message, chief executive Peter Ingram admitted that the mandate had been an “emotional and divisive issue” but insisted that vaccines remain “highly effective at preventing severe illness”
Despite lifting the mandate, Ingram continues to encourage vaccine refusniks to get the shot and is hoping eligible employees get their booster jabs as well.
Hawaiian Airlines first announced it was introducing a vaccine mandate in August 2021, just a week after United Airlines became the first carrier in the United States to announce a similar mandate.
A small group of employees attempted to challenge Hawaiian’s mandate in federal court, accusing the airline of religious discrimination. A judge threw out the case in February after concluding that loss of employment as a result of a vaccine mandate did not constitute “irreparable harm”.
United Airlines lifted its vaccine mandate in March, but the airline said the mandate had helped save lives at the height of the Omicron surge when 3,000 employees were off sick with COVID-19, but zero had been hospitalized.
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.