American Airlines Pilots Lobbying Against Biden Vaccine Mandate

United Airlines has been the most aggressive on vaccines, demanding absolute fealty from employees. They claim a 97% vaccination rate, and anyone even getting a legally-required exemption goes on unpaid leave.

Meanwhile Delta claims an 82% vaccination rate requiring shots for new employees and announcing a health insurance surcharge for employees who don’t get vaccinated.

American Airlines hasn’t publicly declared its vaccination rate. It extended the deadline on its offer of adding a vacation day and $50 in scrip for vaccination. But it said from the get-go that it wouldn’t require vaccines unless forced to for competitive reasons. And now, of course, it seems likely to be forced to by the federal government.

What several people have told me is the biggest thing holding American Airlines back from requiring vaccinations was pilot recalcitrance. If flight attendants leave (and there are many anti-vaxxers among the flight attendants, based on employee message boards) the airline can hire replacements. Pilots aren’t as widely available, and take longer to recruit, train, and certify.

I wrote recently about one American Airlines pilot speaking out on why he didn’t want to get vaccinated.

Now the American Airlines pilots union is lobbying the federal government for an exemption to vaccine mandates arguing that pilots will retire or be terminated en masse, and as a result the nation’s air transportation system will buckle in advance of the holidays.

Pilots at American Airlines are lobbying the White House in an effort to get an exemption from President Biden’s vaccine mandates. They fear that if pilots are forced to choose between the vaccine or their jobs, some airlines will “implement the mass termination of unvaccinated pilots”.

In the worst-case scenario presented to the White House, Federal Aviation Administration and Department of Transportation by the Allied Pilots Association, pilots at the Dallas Fort Worth-based carrier claim the very viability of the U.S. aviation industry could be put in jeopardy if a vaccine mandate is imposed.

The union is urging the Biden administration to enshrine an “alternative means of compliance” within any federal vaccine mandate. An alternative means of compliance could be regular COVID-19 testing, alongside wearing a face mask even once face-covering rules are relaxed for the fully vaccinated.

“Throughout the pandemic, APA has closely consulted with infectious disease specialists to guide our decision-making, and we remain committed to finding workable solutions to the challenges our industry continues to face,” a letter from Captain Eric Ferguson, president of APA reads.

“We are concerned that the Executive Order’s anticipated 60-day implementation period for mandatory vaccination could result in labor shortages and create serious operational problems for American Airlines and its peers,” the letter continues.

Pilots are already treated differently by government mandates during the pandemic. Pilots aren’t allowed to fly within 48 hours of taking a vaccine shot due to potential side effects. And pilots are not required to wear face masks while in the cockpit.

The Biden administration executive order directing OSHA to introduce a vaccine mandate on companies with 100+ employees includes an expected alternative means of compliance in the form of regular Covid-19 testing. While United Airlines is not permitting this, a fear of losing pilots would seem to be enough reason why American Airlines would embrace this alternative.

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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Comments

  1. UAL apparently has agreed to postpone the effective date of its vaccination mandate after a hearing in a case filed by a handful of United employees in a Texas court.

    Wide-ranging vaccine mandates that trample on employees’ health and religious exemptions -UA was going to put unvaccinated employees on unpaid leave of absence – likely will not prevail in court.

  2. Why do these pilots want the pandemic to keep going on and on? Why don’t they want our society to get back to normal?

    The only path back to normal is going to be unvaccinated people getting vaccinated, and frankly I’m sick and tired of coddling these pansies.

  3. “If you have to swallow a frog, don’t stare at it too long.”–Mark Twain

    AA should impose a hard mandate for vaccination for all employees, pilots included. Yes, it will be a hard pill to swallow. Yes, there will be disruption, as if things aren’t in upheaval anyway.

    If AA fails to impose a vaccine mandate, AA will face ongoing disruption due to an ongoing cycle of infections, exposures, quarantines, and all that goes with the pandemic. High levels of vaccination does not eliminate these risks, but will help reduce them.

    The pleas of “individual rights” as an excuse to not have a fully vaccinated workforce are misguided. Those wishing not to be vaccinated have every right to work elsewhere. It will be interesting to see how many insist on maintaining their anti vaccination stance once the mandate is implemented.

    My view is that we can anticipate another 8 months to a year of uncertainty and disruption. Airline executives should focus on what workforce makes the more sense for a year from now,

  4. Tom,

    I’d LOVE to see you call me or any other pilot a pansy to their face.

    This is getting ridiculous for nothing more than what is a bad flu. Wake up!

  5. There are absolutely no guarantees that getting unvaccinated people vaccinated will lead to a return to normal, absolutely none. Governments have made broken promise after broken promise after broken promise throughout this pandemic. Now that the results of this pandemic has been abused to force otherwise healthy people to change their individual lifestyles to keep less healthy people safe, governments will continue to do whatever they want.

  6. What about me?

    I have myocarditis. I’m allowed to fly. My Doc has said that since I’ve had covid I shouldn’t take the shot. UAL’s policy would have forced me to the unemployment line or LTD which frankly is worse than unemployment.

    There are actually pilots saying that unless I get the shot I should be in another line of work.

    I will be going after those pilots personally using legal means as well as AA managers if I am forced to take this and something bad happens.

  7. “The only path back to normal is going to be unvaccinated people getting vaccinated”

    This is clearly untrue, as shown by Israel’s experience. COVID is endemic (even if the vaccine was sterilizing, various animals can serve as reservoirs) and the vaccine isn’t highly effective (protection wears off over time and new variants aren’t resisted as well).

  8. “The only path back to normal is going to be unvaccinated people getting vaccinated,.”

    Good lord, this is terrible science? These vaccines mRNA are not sterilizing. They aren’t contributing to herd immunity. A vaccinated person still gets the virus, and still passes it on.
    (some literature says they spread it MORE than unvaccinated people)

    Read a book.

    Mass vaccination being the answer against Covid is the biggest lie ever sold to the public

    Pfizer and the others are swimming in tax-payer money, and the politicians realized just how much they can get away with.

  9. Good for them! We need more people to tell the potted plant in the White House to stuff it. The problem is, the administration can threaten to withhold future bailout money. See how this works!

  10. The only good thing about this pandemic is that masks have fallen and for all to see who the little Eichmanns like Tom or Bill Cummings are.

  11. The alternative is weekly testing! Why are the AA flight crews upset over weekly testing? It is a very innocuous test! Sorry, AA flight crews need to do what the rest of us have to do!

    Another political post….

  12. Let the free market do it’s thing! Each flight with an unvaccinated pilot should be clearly posted. Those of us who do not want to fly with those pilots can choose another flight. The airlines would find out soon enough which policy to follow. Who would have thought pilots would intentionally be putting us at risk?

  13. what is WRONG with these people…I have a nephew that is a pilot with DELTA…when I found out he was an antivaxer I couldn’t believe it…When we were kids we all took the sugar cube in school with no repercussions ….I would not want to fly with ANY airline worker that isn’t vaccinated…

  14. The mandate is weekly testing. Don’t like that? Then vaccinate. Your body. Your choice of one of these two.

  15. wow, so many above don’t care about people dying. I bet they all voted for the man who grabs women by their genitals and praises Robert E. Lee

  16. So many newly a minded scientists weighing in here. Six hundred Fifty thousand is not enough for you? Put on your big boy/girl pants and get the vaccine. Nothing to be so afraid of, no matter what Tucker tells you. Be brave it’s just a quick jab.

  17. What is wrong with these pilots?
    They could cough on my children and kill them. Eff your “freedom.” Kids are already dying around the country because of these selfish asshat covidiots. I am out of patience people!

  18. Cruises full of 100% vaccinated travelers have broken out with Covid infections.
    Vaccines will not end the pandemic.

  19. If a pilot isn’t smart enough to get vaccinated, I am not comfortable putting my life in their hands.

    Get rid of them. It’s a market-based Darwinian move to get rid of those who fell through the cracks and made it to commercial pilot but shouldn’t have. Those who end up in accidents.

  20. These are the same people who got the MMR shots and a whole lot of other shots when they were in the air force or navy but then they act like little boys who are afraid of the covid shot. Wait until they get the shingles shot that hurt me for a week.

    They have a DUTY to be in good health to fly the plane if not then they lose their job

  21. Go AA! Ridiculous requirements to force employees to get the shot for a virus that has a 99.99% recovery rate. It’s a personal choice if one wants this crap in their bodies, but it’s also a choice to not. The majority will be just fine and the more that get this virus, the more natural immunity we will have which is far greater than an experimental mRNA. BTW – Vaccinated people still get the virus and spread it to others. I know 12 vaccinated people who have and 3 of them died from the virus. This is an endemic and it’s not going away EVER. When people stop buying into the fear-mongering and lies, life will go back to normal.

  22. Bill Cummings….ARE YOU A DOCTOR?? I am unvaccinated and I will remain unvaccinated. And I am NOT an antivaxer!!! I had all of my vaccinations as a child. My children had all of theirs, BUT THIS VACCINATION IS ONLY FOR EMERGENCY USE, it still has UNPROVEN RESULTS!!!! Do you have at least 2 brain cells!?!?!
    And there are people that have put in 10 or 20 or 35 or FORTY YEARS at their jobs, do you think they are just going to ‘find another job’ ?
    Your comment made you sound STUPID!! Do some RESEARCH, it is available. But wait, you can get all of your news from CNN.

  23. @Darla, Bill Cummings does not sound stupid. And, “do some research” is laughable. There is simply no debate among those expert in the field that vaccines are safe and effective. (I’m NOT saying there’s no debate about mandates) Various medical organizations are sanctioning members who promulgate misinformation. It is astonishing to see how being wedded to a political stance has influenced a totally medical decision. And, yes, I am a doctor, one tired of caring for patients dying needlessly.

  24. If you dont want to fly with unvaccinated, stay home and coddle your sheep.
    I will never take that poison. I do have a choice and it is not to follow ignorance

  25. Everybody that spoke against the unvaccinated are not woke and not education you guys are some of the dumbest people I ever seen

  26. There are only 2 reasons why people won’t get vaccinated: Complete and utter ignorance and absolute anger and defiance against Biden’s defeat of Trump. It’s beyond my comprehension that any person of sound mind would risk ending up on a ventilator out of anger , stubbornness and ignorance. To say nothing of how our health care workers and our health care system is being destroyed by these selfish ignoramuses. I don’t have an ounce of sympathy when they end up on ventilators. The only people I have sympathy for are the amazing health care workers who have to take care of these idiots!!!

  27. This vaccine has nothing to do with politics. It is a tool used for population control. If I choose not to have it, that is my personal choice and nobody can take that away. The ignorance of those who try to force poison on others is appalling and they are no better than Nazi Germany. My grandfather passed away 3 weeks after his first shot, I will never take it. I am thoroughly disgusted by what is going on, and if and when I am forced to leave the airline industry, I pray it all comes crashing down on their own head. Justice will be served on those who enforce this evil and they will be judged by God for their crimes against humanity.

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