American, Alaska, JetBlue and Southwest impose vaccine mandates for employees  

Oct 2, 2021

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Editor’s note: Information is changing fast when it comes to airlines’ vaccine mandates. The most up-to-date information has been added to this post. 

_____________________________________________________________________________________

Four major U.S. airlines have announced that federal COVID-19 vaccine mandates will apply to their employees. American Airlines, Alaska Airlines and JetBlue broke the news to staff on Oct. 1. Southwest followed suit on Oct. 4.

American had already told employees in early September that a mandate was likely. In an Oct. 1 memo, American’s chief executive Doug Parker and president Robert Isom stated that the mandate definitely applied, as the airline met the definition of a “federal contractor.”

For more TPG news delivered each morning to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

The memo continued, “As a result, the federal vaccine mandate requires that all of American’s U.S.-based team members and certain international crew members be vaccinated, without the provision of a regular testing alternative.”

The mandate stems from an executive order signed in September by President Biden. The order notably does not provide government contractors the option to undergo regular testing as an alternative to the vaccine.(Private sector companies, by contrast, do have that option.)

The American memo goes on to state that details of the government mandate are still being worked out. (The White House has imposed a Dec. 8 vaccine deadline for federal workers in previous announcements.) The memo does however,  make it clear that “team members who choose to remain unvaccinated will not be able to work at American Airlines.”

Parker and Isom did make favorable reference to American’s vaccine incentive program, during which “tens of thousands” of team members were vaccinated.

In their Oct. 1 announcements, Alaska Airlines and JetBlue also cited their status as federal contractors as the reason for imposing the mandate. Alaska said that is extending a $200 incentive to employees to upload proof of full vaccination by Dec. 1.

In an Oct. 4 statement, Southwest Airlines Co. indicated that it had completed a “thorough review of President Biden’s COVID Action Plan and determined that the carrier’s contracts with the U.S. government require full compliance with the federal vaccination directive.”

It added that Southwest employees must either be fully vaccinated or approved for an accommodation by Dec. 8 to continue employment.

“I encourage all Southwest employees to meet the federal directive, as quickly as possible, since we value every individual and want to ensure job security for all,” said Chairman and CEO Gary Kelly.

United Airlines was an early adapter of vaccine requirements for employees. It announced a vaccine mandate in August, imposing a deadline of this past week. As of September 30, some 99.5 % of the airline’s 67,000 employees had complied.

The federal contractor vaccine mandate does have limited exceptions, which apply to airline employees. Namely, any airline employee with a sincerely held religious belief or a disability can request accommodations on those grounds.

Delta Air Lines remains the only major U.S. airline that has resisted mandating vaccinations. On Oct. 3 Delta CEO Ed Bastian said, “We have not made a decision on that. We are obviously studying it, talking to the White House and the administration as to what the requirements are..”

Photo by Markus Mainka/Shutterstock.com

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 50,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants in the first three months of card membership.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 50,000 Bonus Miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.
  • Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants with your card within the first 3 months of membership.
  • Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
15.74%-24.74% Variable
Annual Fee
$250
Balance Transfer Fee
N/A
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.