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Southwest Airlines suspends employee contact tracing amid COVID-19 surge

Jan. 09, 2022
3 min read
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Southwest Airlines suspends employee contact tracing amid COVID-19 surge
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Southwest Airlines has suspended its workplace contract tracing program when employees test positive for COVID-19.

In a memo to employees viewed by TPG, the airline said that the national increase in cases driven by the omicron variant has made contact tracing less effective and more difficult to administer as the airline sees an uptick in employee cases, mirroring that in the general population. The airline said it would temporarily pause the contact tracing program.

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Under CDC guidelines, people who are fully vaccinated and have received a booster do not need to isolate following close contact with someone who has the virus. Those people should get tested after five days, the CDC says, and wear a mask around others for at least 10 days.

The airline also said it would lower its required isolation period for COVID-positive employees from 10 days to five days, as long as the person in question has been fever-free for 24 hours, aligning with the decreased isolation guidance issued by the CDC late last month.

It was not immediately clear whether any other major airline had suspended their contact tracing programs, although American confirmed to TPG that it continues to inform employees of close contacts with coworkers who test positive.

The decision to suspend contact tracing comes as airlines have grappled with staffing shortages caused by a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases among employees.

Airlines canceled roughly 20,000 flights over the holiday travel period due to staffing shortages, which were exacerbated by severe winter weather at major airports across the country.

In the days before Christmas, Delta and JetBlue, along with U.S. airline trade organization Airlines for America, called on the CDC to lower its isolation guideline for those with COVID.

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Southwest has suffered a significant impact from the shortages and weather issues since New Year's Eve, canceling 3,788 flights between Dec. 31 and Jan. 7, according to FlightAware, roughly 15% of its scheduled flights.

As of 10:15 p.m. ET on Saturday, Southwest had canceled 320 flights for the day or 10% of those scheduled.

The airline also said in the memo that it would offer five days of isolation pay for employees who test positive, including unvaccinated employees, reversing an earlier policy that restricted the isolation pay to staff who had received the shot. In the memo, the airline further reminded employees not to come to work if they have COVID-19 symptoms.

Read more: Mask mandates questioned during Capitol Hill hearing, but — in the end — airline CEOs hold the line

Southwest did not immediately return a request for comment.

Featured image by A Southwest plane taxis at Dallas Love Field (DAL) in June, 2021. (Photo by David Slotnick/The Points Guy)
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 Points Guy Exclusive Offer: Earn 150,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Platinum Card® within the first 3 months of Card Membership.

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    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
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Why We Chose It

It's hard to find a card that competes with the mile-long list of benefits that come with the Amex Business Platinum. While it's certainly not the card for the average consumer, a business owner with tons of expenses -- especially related to travel -- will find this card incredibly valuable. This card is similar to the consumer version that Amex offers, but with more business-oriented perks around statement credits and earning rates that are a better fit for business owners.

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  • Extended warranty protection
  • International Airline Program and Cruise Privileges Program

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  • Steep annual fee
  • Difficulty meeting $15,000 welcome offer for smaller businesses
  • Limited high-bonus categories outside of travel
  • The Points Guy Exclusive Offer: Earn 150,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Platinum Card® within the first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • Get 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com, and 1X points for each dollar you spend on eligible purchases.
  • Earn 1.5X points (that’s an extra half point per dollar) on eligible purchases at US construction material & hardware suppliers, electronic goods retailers and software & cloud system providers, and shipping providers, as well as on purchases of $5,000 or more everywhere else, on up to $2 million of these purchases per calendar year.
  • Unlock over $1,000 in annual statement credits on a curation of business purchases, including select purchases made with Dell Technologies, Indeed, Adobe, and U.S. wireless service providers.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Get up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year for checked baggage fees, lounge day passes, and more at one selected airline.
  • $189 CLEAR® Credit: Use your Card and get up to $189 back per year on your CLEAR® membership. CLEAR® is available at more than 50 U.S. airports and stadiums.
  • The American Express Global Lounge Collection® can provide an escape at the airport. With more than 1,400 airport lounges across 140 countries and counting, you have more lounge location options than any other credit card on the market as of 9/2021.
  • $695 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.