More airlines follow United’s lead, require staff to be vaccinated
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Editor’s note: This piece has been updated with additional information from American Airlines and Alaska Airlines.
On the heels of United’s announcement today that it would require all employees to be vaccinated, Frontier has announced a similar policy.
Frontier Airlines says it will require all direct employees to be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus by Oct. 1, 2021.
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Frontier Airlines president and CEO Barry Biffle said, “As we continue to watch the rapid increase of new COVID-19 cases across the United States caused by the Delta variant, I am concerned for the well-being of our team members, their families and friends. Safety is of the utmost importance at Frontier and we need to take every step possible for us to keep our teams safe, protect the operation and protect our passengers. The time has come to do what we can to help put an end to COVID-19.”
Employees who do not comply with the vaccine mandate, either because they’ve chosen not to or are unable to, will be subjected to COVID-19 testing on a “regular basis.” This differs from United’s policy that states that non-compliant employees (who don’t have a medical or religious reason for not getting the vaccine) will be terminated.
The airline says the policy is “a clear next step for the airline as it remains committed to the health and safety of all passengers and crew members.”
Although the airline did not provide any numbers, Biffle said, “The good news is that the vast majority of our employees have already taken this important step and have gotten vaccinated.” He added that he hopes the mandate “will further increase the percentage of [Frontier’s] workforce that’s fully vaccinated.”
Delta Air Lines announced it would require all new hires to be vaccinated against COVID-19 back in May. Spokesperson Morgan Durrant told TPG via email that the airline is “strongly encouraging” its people to get vaccinated and noted that its employee vaccination rate is “now above 73%,” but stopped short of confirming that a mandate is on the way for employees.
A JetBlue spokesperson told TPG that the airline is “continuing to evaluate a vaccination requirement for all JetBlue crewmembers, and in the meantime, are actively encouraging our crewmembers to get a shot to protect themselves and those around them.” The spokesperson added that “Thousands of JetBlue crewmembers have already been vaccinated” and that the airline is “providing them with information about the benefits of vaccines and have held vaccination pop-ups in a number of locations to make it convenient for crewmembers.”
American Airlines CEO Doug Parker recently told The New York Times that his airline would not mandate vaccinations for employees, and a spokesperson for the airline told TPG in a statement that it had “no update to American’s policy at this time.” However, the airline is “strongly encouraging” employees to get vaccinated and is offering team members who get vaccinated an additional day off in 2022 and $50 through its employee recognition platform.
Alaska Airlines, for now, is also going the “strongly encourage” route, per a spokesperson. “While we currently do not have plans to mandate vaccines, we are exploring other ways to keep employees safe, such as mandatory weekly COVID testing for employees who choose not to get vaccinated. We will continue to adjust our policies and protocols as needed to ensure the safety of our employees and guests,” the airline said via email to TPG.
A spokesperson for Southwest said the airline had “no news…in this arena” when asked whether a similar policy is in the works.
Meanwhile, The Guardian is reporting that daily COVID-19 cases have moved above 100,000 per day for the first time since February as the delta variant continues to drive rising infection rates here in the U.S.
TPG has reached out to Spirit Airlines to inquire about any upcoming vaccine requirements or changes in policy and will update this post with additional information.
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