American Airlines, Alaska Airlines and JetBlue say all staff must be vaccinated

American Airlines, Alaska Airlines and JetBlue are joining United Airlines in requiring employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19, as the Biden administration steps up pressure on major US carriers to mandate the shots.

The airlines provide special flights, cargo hauling and other services for the government. The companies say that makes them government contractors who are covered by President Joe Biden‘s order directing contractors to require employees to be vaccinated.

American Airlines CEO Doug Parker told his more than 100,000 employees late Friday that the airline is still working on details, but ‘it is clear that team members who choose to remain unvaccinated will not be able to work at American Airlines.’

The pilot union at American recently estimated that 4,200 – or 30 per cent – of the airline’s pilots are not vaccinated.  

Alaska Airlines and JetBlue Airways, who each employee more than 22,000 people, told their employees that they must be vaccinated as early as December 8, per the Biden administration’s deadline, CNBC reports.   

American Airlines announced all of its more than 100,000 employees would be required to get vaccinated against COVID-19, with Alaska Airlines and JetBlue following suit  

American Airlines CEO Doug Parker

JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes

American Airlines CEO Doug Parker, left, and JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes have issued vaccine mandates for all their employees. JetBlue set their deadline for December 8 

Alaska Airlines also extended its $200 incentive for employees who get vaccinated from October 15 to December 1

Alaska Airlines also extended its $200 incentive for employees who get vaccinated from October 15 to December 1

JetBlue Chief Executive Officer Robin Hayes and Chief Operating Officer Joanna Geraghty told employees on Friday that the vaccine mandate was a company-wide policy affecting those working at the airports, support centers and at home. 

The executives also urged employees to get the jab before the holiday travel rush. 

‘Our customers count on us to get them where they’re going during the holidays, and we need to be ready to fully comply with the mandate before the holiday peak starts and to help bring this pandemic to a close,’ they said. 

A spokesperson for Alaska Airlines told CNBC that more and more employees are submitting proof of vaccination after the mandate was given and that the airline was extending its $200 incentive for staff to show proof of vaccination from October 15 to December 1. 

American Airlines, Alaska Airlines and JetBlue will all allow employees with religious and medical exemptions to opt out of the mandate. 

The move comes after United Airlines became the first major airline to mandate that all of its 67,000 workers be vaccinated in August. 

United Airline CEO Scott Kirby told CNN Business on Thursday that about 99 per cent of the company’s employees are now vaccinated and that the mandate has served as a success story that other airlines should emulate. 

United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby

United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby

‘It’s turning out to be a competitive advantage,’ Kirby said. ‘We’ve had people come to job fairs saying they came to United Airlines because they want to work for a company who puts employees safety first, that stands for doing the right thing.’ 

Kirby added that he had been on calls with other airlines to offer advice on how to implement the vaccine mandates.  

On Saturday White House coronavirus adviser Jeffrey Zients talked to the CEOs of American, Delta Air Lines and Southwest Airlines about vaccine mandates.

Delta Airlines, which employees nearly 80,000 people, said it plans to impose $200 monthly surcharge on unvaccinated employee’s company health insurance starting in November. 

Unvaccinated Delta employees are also undergoing weekly COVID-19 testing. 

The Atlanta-based airline said about 84 per cent of its employees were vaccinated. 

Southwest Airlines current offers a vaccination incentive of 16 hours of extra pay for employees and 13 trip segments for pilots and flight attendants. 

The company will also end COVID pay protection for staff in mid-November if they are unvaccinated. 

Airlines face the decision of whether or not pass vaccine mandates for staff as the US reached a grim milestone of 700,000 dead due to COVID-19. 

The nation continues to see surges of the Delta variant as the US reported more than 158,000 new cases on Friday and more than 2,400 new deaths, Johns Hopkins University reports. 

According to the CDC, more than 75 per cent of those eligible for the vaccine have gotten at lest one dose.  

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