Southwest Airlines, American Airlines, and Delta Air Lines aren't going along with rival United Airlines' mandate that their employees get their COVID-19 vaccinations, with at least one of the companies finding that, when left to the workers' personal choice, most are getting the shots.
Southwest will "continue to strongly encourage" workers to get vaccinated, CEO Gary Kelly said in an internal memo obtained by CNN, but he added that the airline's stance has not changed about requiring the vaccinations.
"Obviously, I am very concerned about the latest Delta variant, and the effect on the health and safety of our employees and our operation, but nothing has changed," Kelly said.
Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian told Good Day New York this week that 75% of his company's employees have already gotten their shots, even without having to obey company orders.
Delta does require all new hires to have gotten their shots and was the first company to issue that mandate, but the rule does not include its current employees. United Airlines followed with its own announcement for new employees in June, before announcing last week that the mandate will now include all employees.
Bastian, however, said he thinks there are "additional steps and measures we can take to get the vaccine rates even higher, but what we're seeing is every day those numbers continue to grow.
American Airlines isn't requiring employees to get their shots, but the company is encouraging the vaccine by giving workers who have gotten their shots by the end of this month one extra day of vacation next year, said CEO Doug Parker.
"We certainly encourage it everywhere we can encourage it for our customers and our employees, but we're not putting mandates in place," said Parker.
United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby, after the company's announcement last week that all of its 67,000 employees would face being fired if they did not get their vaccinations by Oct. 25, met with President Joe Biden Wednesday, along with other executives from companies with vaccination mandates.
He said that if employers would start mandating vaccinations, the United States' shot rates could climb to 80% to 90% and that the president "asked us to do everything we could with fellow CEOs or anyone we were in contact with to encourage others to do the same thing."
Meanwhile, Alaska Airlines told staff Wednesday that it is considering a vaccine mandate for its roughly 20,000 employees, but only after the Food and Drug Administration gives its full approval to at least one of the vaccines currently available, reports CNBC, after obtaining a company memo.
“As an employer with a duty to keep you safe and given the contagiousness and health risks of the COVID-19 virus and its variants, we are within our rights to make this decision and to ask you for information about your vaccine status,” Alaska told employees in the memo. Exceptions would be allowed for religious or medical reasons.
Frontier Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines have already issued vaccine requirements.
None of the CEOs of the major airlines, meanwhile, think at this time that there will be a vaccination requirement for passengers traveling within the United States, but one may come into play when traveling internationally, reports CNN.
"It's a government question, but I suspect that it won't happen domestically," Kirby told CNN Wednesday.
Bastian has also said he doesn't think there will be a domestic vaccination requirement for airline passengers, telling CNBC earlier this month that “it’s very difficult for us to come in and mandate a vaccine that isn’t even federally approved yet" but that "we’re continuing to encourage as much as we can amongst our own people and our customers to get vaccinated."
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