American Airlines, the largest airline in the United States, said on Friday that the company would not provide special leave from next month to unvaccinated employees who have to quarantine due to COVID-19.
Unvaccinated workers will have to use their sick time or medical leave if they miss work due to the disease, the company said.
‘Given there is an FDA-approved vaccine, pandemic leave will only be offered to team members who are fully vaccinated and who provide their vaccination card to us,’ the carrier said in a memo to staff seen by Reuters.
Doug Parker, CEO of American Airlines, said last month that the company would not require either passengers or employees to be vaccinated
American Airlines said on Friday that the company would not provide special leave from next month to unvaccinated employees who have to quarantine
Doug Parker, CEO of American Airlines, told The New York Times last month that the company would not require either passengers or employees to be vaccinated.
Parker said that verifying the vaccination status of passengers would be ‘incredibly cumbersome’ for domestic flights and would cause flight delays.
He added that American Airlines offers an extra day of vacation and $50 gift card as an incentive for workers to get vaccinated.
‘We certainly encourage it everywhere we can, encourage it for our customers and our employees, but we’re not putting mandates in place,’ Parker said.
Alaska Airlines said on Friday that it had stopped special pay for unvaccinated employee absences due to COVID-19 infection or exposure.
The airline has mandated vaccination for all new hires and will pay $200 to employees who provide proof of vaccination.
‘Throughout the pandemic, the safety of our employees and guests has always come first, and we are committed to protecting our fellow employees, guests and loved ones from the impacts of the COVID-19 virus,’ the company said in a statement.
‘We believe having as many people as possible vaccinated is the best path for protection against COVID-19 and we will continue to strongly encourage our employees to be vaccinated.’
Alaska Airlines said that 75% of employees at Alaska Airlines and its sister carrier Horizon Air Industries have shared with the company that they are vaccinated.
‘This is good progress, but we have more work to do. That’s why we are implementing new measures designed to increase vaccination rates and enhance our multi-layered approach to safety,’ the company said.
Alaska Airlines, which also does not require its current employees to get vaccinated, added that it would also implement a new testing protocol for unvaccinated employees while continuing to enforce the wearing of masks and social distancing.
It was not immediately clear precisely what the testing protocols would entail.
JetBlue Airlines, the nation’s sixth largest carrier, also offered as much as an additional 14 days sick time for any crewmember diagnosed with COVID-19.
‘We encourage crewmembers to monitor their health on a daily basis, and have a very clear policy that states that they should not come to work if they’re sick,’ the company’s website reads.
It was not immediately clear how long JetBlue plans to continue its pandemic leave program – but has noted on its website that ‘the majority of our crewmembers have received the vaccine.’
A map shows the total number of coronavirus cases and deaths in the United States since the start of the pandemic
A graph shows the number of coronavirus deaths per day since the start of the pandemic
A graph shows the number of coronavirus deaths per day in August and September
A map shows the percentage of the population in each state that has received the COVID-19 vaccine
The moves by American Airlines and Alaska Airlines on Friday comes after United Airlines last month became the first U.S. carrier to require vaccinations for all domestic employees.
Frontier and Hawaiian Airlines have since joined United in requiring employees to become vaccinated.
Meanwhile, Delta Air Lines announced last month that unvaccinated employees would be charged an additional monthly fee of $200 for their healthcare plans beginning in November.
Delta has also required all U.S. employees who are not fully vaccinated to take a COVID test each week starting September 12. The company said about 75% of its employees have reported getting vaccinated.
‘Over the past few weeks, the fight has changed with the rise of the B.1.617.2 variant – a very aggressive form of the virus,’ Delta CEO Ed Bastian said in a note to employees.
‘Our Chief Health Officer, Dr. Henry Ting, describes the variant as a ‘heat-seeking missile’ that transmits predominantly through the unvaccinated community.’
Ted Christie, the CEO of Spirit Airlines, told CNBC in July that the company has no plans to mandate that its employees receive the shot – but has urged staffers to get vaccinated because of rising concerns over the Delta variant of the coronavirus.
‘Rising case counts with regard to the delta variant obviously is a concern for everybody,’ Christie said on Squawk Box. ‘The answer to that, we believe, is to get your vaccine, make sure you get out there and get vaccinated.’