American Airlines told employees they wouldn’t require Covid-19 vaccination. They encouraged it by offering an extra day off in 2022 and $50 in airline scrip (“Nonstop Thanks points”). As recently as a few days ago airline President Robert Isom told employees in Phoenix to go get the Johnson & Johnson shot.
President Joe Biden, though, told airlines they had to lead the way on employer vaccine mandates the day after a White House event with airline CEOs where they were talking about taxpayer subsidies for environmentally-friendlier jet fuel. And the White House said they’d modify Civil Reserve Air Fleet contracts to require vaccination.
In other words, if airlines didn’t require it – as opposed to waiting on an OSHA rule for large employers that will include an alternative for regular Covid-19 testing – then they’d lose lucrative government subsidies.
American fell in line, and immediately told employees they were working through a vaccine mandate – get vaccinated, get an exemption for medical or religious reasons, or get fired.
Now there’s a deadline, as first reported by aviation watchdog JonNYC:
confirmation of vaccine must be submitted by November 24th. If not submitted, team members will be terminated.
— ˜”*° JonNYC °*”˜ (@xJonNYC) October 6, 2021
A subset of crewmembers are apoplectic over this. And with a reported 4000-plus unvaccinated pilots, American does have a problem. The question is whether this will be a problem for holiday travel, as the American Airlines pilots union has predicted.
My own guess is that you’ll see some senior pilots take retirement. Most mid-career pilots will get vaccinated, because their work alternatives are limited due to union seniority. Anywhere they go they’d start at the bottom, and any U.S. carrier is going to have similar requirements. Some of the most junior pilots could go elsewhere, such as flying for a foreign carrier.