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

Oct. 02, 2021
3 min read
American Airlines jets in Phoenix
American, Alaska, JetBlue and Southwest impose vaccine mandates for employees  
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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. 

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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."

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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.

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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

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

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The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

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  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

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  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023