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Southwest Airlines WONT fire unvaccinated staff as long as they wear masks and socially distance 


Southwest Airlines is canceling a plan to put some unvaccinated employees on unpaid leave following the federal deadline in December. 

The rules apply to Southwest employees who have applied for but not yet received a religious or medical exemption. 

The company had made headlines recently after having to cancel over 2,000 flights over the Columbus Day weekend. Pilots had staunchly denied they walked out over the new COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

As a federal contractor, Southwest Airlines is subject to the Biden administration’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate. Employers with a certain number of workers need to have all of them vaccinated unless they are exempt for medical and religious reasons by December 8.  

Rules for federal contractors are tougher than those expected of large companies, which will allow for regular COVID-19 testing as an alterative to a vaccination.

Labor unions for the company’s pilots have attempted to either block the mandate or allow for testing as an alternative. 

Southwest Airlines is canceling a plan to put some unvaccinated employees on unpaid leave following the federal deadline in December

The rules apply to Southwest employees who have applied for but not yet received a religious or medical exemption

The rules apply to Southwest employees who have applied for but not yet received a religious or medical exemption

As a federal contractor, Southwest Airlines is subject to the Biden administration's COVID-19 vaccine mandate

As a federal contractor, Southwest Airlines is subject to the Biden administration’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate

Southwest’s senior VP of operations and hospitality, Steve Goldberg, and Julie Weber, VP and ‘chief people officer’, wrote in a letter to staffers that if employees’ requests for an exemption haven’t been approved by December 8, they could continue to work while following mask and distancing guidelines until the request has been reviewed.

Employees currently have until November 24 to either get their vaccinations or apply for exemption. 

Southwest will keep paying employees while they review the request and will allow those who are rejected to keep working ‘as we coordinate with them on meeting the requirements (vaccine or valid accommodation).’ 

In addition, Southwest will give employees a chance to reapply for rejected exemptions if they have ‘new information or circumstances.’ 

All new hire employees must still be fully vaccinated.  

‘This is a change from what was previously communicated,’ the letter said. ‘Initially, we communicated that these Employees would be put on unpaid leave and that is no longer the case.’

Southwest confirmed the policy change to CNBC, which comes just weeks before the deadline.    

Southwest's senior VP of operations and hospitality, Steve Goldberg, and Julie Weber, VP and 'chief people officer', wrote in a letter to staffers that if employees' requests for an exemption haven't been approved by December 8, they could continue to work while following mask and distancing guidelines until the request has been reviewed

Southwest’s senior VP of operations and hospitality, Steve Goldberg, and Julie Weber, VP and ‘chief people officer’, wrote in a letter to staffers that if employees’ requests for an exemption haven’t been approved by December 8, they could continue to work while following mask and distancing guidelines until the request has been reviewed

'This is a change from what was previously communicated,' the letter said. 'Initially, we communicated that these Employees would be put on unpaid leave and that is no longer the case'

‘This is a change from what was previously communicated,’ the letter said. ‘Initially, we communicated that these Employees would be put on unpaid leave and that is no longer the case’

Southwest Airlines apologized last week for a disastrous Columbus Day weekend of service disruptions with more than 2,100 cancellations and at least 970 delays amid a staunch denial from its pilots that they had walked out over the new COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

The airline said the problems were ‘created by weather and other external constraints, which left aircraft and Crews out of pre-planned positions to operate our schedule on Saturday’. 

The problems ‘cascaded throughout the weekend and into Monday,’ the statement said.

Southwest Airlines President Mike Van de Ven told employees late on Sunday that he expected Monday to be ‘more normal’ than the weekend, when staffing shortages forced the company to cancel nearly 2,000 flights nationwide. 

But long lines of stranded passengers formed inside the Southwest terminal at Denver International Airport before dawn on Monday. The scenes were similar to those from August, when frustrated passengers were left stranded at airports after Spirit and American Airlines canceled more than 670 flights over the course of three days.

Van de Ven told workers the airline was working to develop a plan to address several shortcomings, including tight staffing on weekends as well as chronic delays and cancellations, according to The Wall Street Journal.  

Since lockdowns were lifted and air travel resumed, airlines have had trouble meeting the higher-than-expected demand, particularly after furloughing tens of thousands of workers during the pandemic. As Americans resume air travel, airlines have had to play catch up while struggling to fill manpower shortages. 

‘We are still not where we want to be with staffing, and in particular with our flight crews,’ he said in a video message to his company. ‘We simply need more staffing cushion for the unexpected in this environment and we are bringing new people onboard every day.’ 

Van de Ven said in the message that Southwest ‘already made significant reductions from our previously published November and December schedules, and if we think we need to do more, we will.’

Long lines of stranded passengers formed inside the Southwest terminal at Denver International Airport before dawn on October 11

Long lines of stranded passengers formed inside the Southwest terminal at Denver International Airport before dawn on October 11

On October 10, Southwest canceled more than 140 flights out of Denver International Airport alone

On October 10, Southwest canceled more than 140 flights out of Denver International Airport alone

On October 9, 102 Southwest flights originating from Denver were canceled while 160 were delayed

On October 9, 102 Southwest flights originating from Denver were canceled while 160 were delayed

Southwest Airlines canceled hundreds more flights October 11 following a weekend of major service disruptions. The above table shows the flights canceled and delayed on Monday, with Southwest reporting the highest number of all major airlines

Southwest Airlines canceled hundreds more flights October 11 following a weekend of major service disruptions. The above table shows the flights canceled and delayed on Monday, with Southwest reporting the highest number of all major airlines



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