American Airlines Paying Out Incentives For Employees To Get Exempted From Vaccination

What a marked contrast. United Airlines required employee vaccination before the federal government tried to impose this requirement. They’ve been to court over putting employees with vaccine exemptions on unpaid leave. And they say this policy has kept every one of their Covid-positive employees out of the hospital and saved numerous employee lives.

American Airlines, by contrast, offered big incentive pay that encouraged crew to work even when they’d otherwise call in sick. Fearing not having enough employees to staff their schedule they encouraged employees to seek exemption from vaccination and have now said that unvaccinated employees won’t be asked to test for Covid-1 in order to work.

It turns out the effort to keep employees in the face of a vaccine mandate has gone even farther, paying out incentives for employees to get exempted from the requirement. As a note confirming exemption explains, such employees get an extra day of vacation as well as $50 in company scrip for their successful exemption.

United Airlines is litigating in the courts to keep unvaccinated employees out of the workplace. American Airlines is paying unvaccinated employees extra to remain it it.

While it’s expected that as many as 40% of Americans will get Covid-19 in the Omicron wave, vaccinated and boosted individuals are less likely to get it, clear the virus more quickly, and are less likely to spread it. So vaccination is still better not just for employee health but for reducing spread among employees and keeping the operation running. But vaccine resistance has been high in the airline’s workforce and they’ve made the decision to push people to get exemptions if they don’t want vaccination, in order to keep them working.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. On par for AA. It wouldn’t surprise me if most of the accommodations also prohibited employees from serving drinks or leaving the galley (except for when their Kindle batteries die).

  2. At least its loyalty program is “fun.”

    Hospitalization is a great opportunity to relax and look for Simply Miles offers that stack with shopping portal bonuses.

  3. “But vaccine resistance has been high in the airline’s workforce”

    United’s experience does not back that up. Require it and make exemptions difficult and vaccine uptake ends up being high. Not hard to figure out.

  4. No ethics at AA. There never was there never will be.

    Only 190k more miles to dump. It’s getting harder to do as they just canceled 1/3 of their spring flights to Europe forcing me to burn valuable UA/LF miles.

  5. Appreciate that AA is supporting ALL of their employees.
    In light of all the facts that are coming out that Vax vs Unvax is simply false, I applaud AA for their resilience in these tough times.

    I will be flying AA!

  6. Looks like those are benefits employees get upon becoming fully vaccinated. So they are just treating those with a valid exemption from vaccination the same. They aren’t encouraging exemptions—you get the same whether you get vaccinated or have a valid exemption. The goal is to encourage everyone to have one or the other.

  7. Was thinking of flying AA to ATH in April because of a better price. However, I will now fly Dl or UA.
    Unvaccinated leads to hospitalization. Nuf said.

  8. Thank goodness for at least one US carrier who won’t force experimental treatments as a condition of employment. This is true leadership!

  9. Thank you for this article, Gary. You write, “American Airlines, by contrast, offered big incentive pay that encouraged [the] crew to work even when they’d otherwise call in sick.”

    During a COVID pandemic, American Airlines encourages employees to work while sick through incentives like an extra day of vacation and $50 in company scrip for getting approved to be exempt from vaccination. As a result, I expect passengers will have a higher probability of getting infected from COVID while flying on American Airlines. With the American Airlines infection control policy, it will be interesting to compare the death and illness statistics of COVID-infected American Airlines passengers and their employees in contrast to other airlines over the next few months.

  10. That is the most asinine action I have ever heard of. Like a farmer, spreading shit on his field. But, by now we know that AA goes its own way, to the detriment of its employees and customers. Not ever going to fly on an airline that doesn’t care about my health.

  11. Just another classsic example of AA “gaming” the (government)system. Plenty of spare cash sitting arount from the two handouts at our expense. Public safety be damned. What a sham!!!!

  12. If what AA is doing helps keeps their flights cancellations down, I’m all for it. And if these posters above stop flying AA, maybe it will even help lessen the flight loads. Wins all around.

  13. I definitely prioritize safety (my own and others) and have decided to fly United out of Dulles instead of AA out of DCA. Never been a fan of United, but this issue is more important. The airport is farther but I shifted to them last month and found that getting an easy direct flight makes up for that anyway. I’ll use my AA miles, of course, but for partner airlines (which is a better value anyway). No more AA for me.

  14. Fine. All the UA employees that don’t want the vaccines can go to AA. Another good reason NOT to fly AA.
    Isn’t AA based in Texas – Duh !

  15. Congress needs to hand out more subsidy money to covers this important investment…

    You can’t make this stuff up. I wonder if it occurred to AA that exempted employees are much more likely to incur high medical expenses?
    Maybe dead or ventilated employees can be induced to pick up a shift if AA provides a bigger bonus?

  16. Face it. The actual value of getting the vaccine has been diminishing since its introduction given the accumulating data on it’s ineffectiveness. Vaxed still get and transmit covid. It’s a flu shot equivalent, not a vaccine. Good on AA for not being idiots like UA.

  17. Glad I’ve used up my AA miles and will be flying United regularly in the future. I wonder if they will further entice those who go in for their exemption scheme by also paying funeral expenses when (not if) some of them come down with COVID and die.

  18. AA and SWA top the industry in prioritizing politics over safety in the workplace.
    Simple undeniable fact is UA’s policy has saved lives.

  19. “While it’s expected that as many as 40% of Americans will get Covid-19 in the Omicron wave, vaccinated and boosted individuals are less likely to get it, …”

    This is either a bald-faced lie or you’re misinformed. Which is it?

  20. Employees who have approved accommodations can’t be discriminated against from a legal standpoint. Therefore, the company cannot deny them their extra vacation day or $50 in “points”. This isn’t an American Airlines thing, it’s an ADA / religious discrimination thing. The article is sensational, lacks context and understanding.

  21. One airline management is being rational (American). One airline is being dominated by hysteria (United). Covid vaccines don’t work well. The mRNA spike protein vaccines only cause a particular activation of the B cells that produce antibodies. That’s why they give multiple vaccines and boosters every 3-6 months. That’s why the majority of people who are hospitalized for Covid have had the vaccine twice or thrice (booster). The vaccines offer a little immunity for a short window but any benefit is outweighed by the damage done to the immune system. Look at all the actors who have died out of nowhere or 30 year old soccer players who had heart attacks who had the vaccine and booster recently. Normal vaccines from MMR to Tetanus don’t require a new booster every 3-6 months. Normal vaccines for Covid haven’t really been perfected because coronaviruses can’t really have vaccines made for as they mutate. Flu shots for the assumed strain at least don’t cause the severe reactions and immune degradation Covid vaccines do.

    American is right. People are better off unvaccinated. The risks of complications from Covid are minimal for most. Let flight attendants wear N-95 masks on the plane and let passengers choose if they want to wear a mask.

  22. Jackson, plenty of people way smarter and qualified then you or I with much more data available to them can prove you wrong…..but the really sad thing is the amount of time some people have been so aggressively spreading misinformation about the vaccines yet all the while saying it should be personal choice. I get the personal choice perspective, but why try so hard to change other peoples personal choice? Why do you feel the need to convince others they should think like you? …no matter how hard you try and spin it, the fact remains that millions have had zero problems with the vaccines and 100’s of thousands of people are alive today because of the vaccines…there simply is nothing that refutes that.

    It’s amazing the amount of people willing to repeat questionable unresearched information to try and convince others to make a choice that could kill them.

  23. @John

    You are believing the propaganda. All those people who you claim are smarter than you or I are not conscious thinkers practicing real science. They are part of an academic system which doesn’t allow independent thought and which chooses people who don’t question what they are told. You have a lot of faith in institutions. I don’t. I know they are corrupted to the core and biased. Any statistics or claims of safety you hear in the mainstream media and government are coming from drug companies and those pushing the vaccine. I think you are projecting your need to convince others on me. It’s not those skeptical of the efficacy and safety of Covid vaccines that are forceful and calling people terrorists and immoral for not getting an under tested and controversial new vaccine: it’s the vaccinated and vaccine pushers doing that. It’s not people skeptical of Covid vaccine safety who are supporting bans of anyone who isn’t vaccinated.

    If the vaccines really worked, the media and government wouldn’t have to try so hard pushing them. They wouldn’t have to drown out or outright ban any speak of vaccine reactions. Legitimate journalists would find it strange so many people who had multiple vaccines continue to be hospitalized despite the narrative and there are too many people who had the vaccines dropping dead that likely wouldn’t have died.

    You don’t actually believe in the safety and benefits of the Covid vaccines. You are just repeating what your controllers are telling you.

  24. New readers of this blog be forewarned Jackson Waterson is a racist (pro-White) in addition to being an all-out-on-the-floor moron as demonstrated by his comments about covid.

  25. I don’t understand all the comments about this policy leading to hospitalizations. Who do you all think is at risk of being hospitalized, yourself apparently? But you all a vaxed and boosted so it’s not you! So isn’t it the employee with the exemption that is at risk? Then then the question becomes, why do you care?

  26. This cracks me up , you all complaining but you’re not worried that the passengers around you don’t have to be SMDH !

  27. I would appreciate knowing where the information in the printed part of the link is from. I posted a link to this posting on a Facebook group for airline employees and it resulted in many comments saying the information is incorrect (some used more colorful language).

  28. For those of you who believe that the vaccines are unproven and of no value, funny but Trump’s whole family is vaccinated and boostered, almost every member of Congress and of the Supreme Court acknowledges they have been vaccinated and boostered, and hospitals are reporting higher rates of hospitalizations and deaths among those who haven’t been. So EVERYONE is “in on the game” of helping the drug companies and big government out, (except for the few “mavericks” you happen to know!), And it is ALL a big conspiracy of which you are among the few who know about it, because you read an article somewhere by someone, FOR SOME REASON you CHOOSE to believe! And the vast majority of people who have personal relationships with their doctors and in some cases, even have family members who are medical professionals, are being lied to by them! And somehow you don’t find this ludicrous!! Again, let me say how I started this – Donald Trump is vaccinated and boostered. He got COVID but swears the vaccines helped him. Just ask him! Herman Cain, a conservative who ran for President, was NOT vaccinated, and got COVID, Ask him how THAT went…. Oh, wait. You can’t. He died of it! (And by the way, the only risk to the unvaccinated employee isn’t to THEIR health! It is the higher risk to everyone they come in contact with. While mandates against the threat of firing may not be the answer, this article implies, in my mind, that everyone who puts in for an exemption is being granted one, regardless of the reason! In a pandemic like this,(with over 10 times the yearly death rate of the flu!), that isn’t the answer either!!)

  29. Whether this Jackson person is racist or pro white or not. I couldn’t care less as I will never break bread with most of you, now with that said. I completely agree with Jackson comment. That was nothing but truth. Bravo

  30. It’s truly amazing the people that can’t comprehend the simple fact that the vaccines work.
    As T Anderson well said, some folks have found some random Facebook page that supports their bias and think they know more then the entire medical research community as well as the overwhelming majority of reputable Doctors and Nurses.
    Astonishing how many High School graduates have “done the research” and now know more then the people that do research for a living.
    As PT Barnum said, there’s a sucker born every minute
    Doesn’t it at least give you pause how many anti vax arguments are so unhinged. Do you really think the My Pillow Guy is a rational person?

  31. It’s funny because I’ve bitched for years about being an ATL DL hub captive, but the more I read about AA (and the few times I’ve had to fly them in recent years) the more I think there are worse things than being stuck with DL. Sure, the DL pesos are worth very little, and it’s no longer as easy to get value from Flying Blue on DL metal, but at least the company cares about the health and comfort of it’s customers and the FAs are, on balance, the best in the domestic skies. My sincere sympathy for AA captives.

  32. @Joe, vaccinated individuals can indeed, pass on the virus to others. But it is less likely, in four ways:
    1) Vaccinated individuals are less likely to be infected, from 30% less likely from Omicron after 8 months with no booster, to 80% less likely a month after getting a booster.
    2) Vaccinated individuals are less likely to exhibit coughing or sneezing symptoms which spread the virus more efficiently, and likely to have such symptoms for a shorter time.
    3) Vaccinated individuals have contagious levels of virus for a shorter time.
    4) Particles emitted by vaccinated individuals have a weaker virus load, on average.

  33. Thank you Big Booty for pointing out that Jackson Waterman is a moron, those who write the most numerous and the longest comments are not correct.

    Smallpox, polio, tetanus, measles, mumps, rubella, hepatitis-b, the list of diseases eradicated by vaccines goes on and on. Anti-vaxers truly are a bunch of morons. To support and follow a lying, corrupt, amoral, ignorant, racist douche bag like Donald Trump is further evidence of their stupidity. We’re very fortunate that Trump wasn’t president when smallpox and polio were discovered, we still be fighting those diseases today. Be reminded that Trump for a very long time advocated that all vaccines cause autism, something that has been disproven many times.

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