American Airlines Sets A November 24 Deadline For Employee Vaccination

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:

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.

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, 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. Anyone who earns an Airline Transport Pilot certificate, required to be a flight crew member, is motivated and intelligent. But after all that effort not to protect oneself from a dangerous disease makes as much sense as flying without a seat belt. You might get away with it but one good thermal or rough landing and you’ll be pasted on the ceiling, head first. And that could be the end of your career. So they (and hopefully every passenger) keeps their seat belts on. The mental disconnect between such a routine safety precaution and not getting a vaccination is breathtaking.

  2. Why would the outcome at AA be any different than at UA where a vaccine mandate led to almost complete vaccination compliance?

  3. Gary-

    Are you suggesting AA employees objections to being vaccinated might be trumped by their desire to keep their jobs and paychecks?

    I’m shocked-shocked!

  4. Some senior pilots will choose to retire rather than get vaxxed ? Really?
    Didn’t they get the memo last year that seniors were in the highest cohort of vulnerable people and were prioritized for vaccination?
    And happy to expose their families, friends, neighbours, co-workers, passengers and the public to Covid on the off-chance they remained asymptomatic (which they probably wouldn’t given their age).
    Let them retire, or sack them. I wouldn’t want someone with such poor judgement flying any flight I was on!

  5. I suspect that very few will give up a $200,000 a year job over some stupid conspiracy theory. I hear the fast food restaurants are hiring, so the few who do actually quit actually should have no trouble finding another job. We’ve seen it before – lots of bluster, but when the crunch comes, most will opt to save their jobs and lives over insisting upon their chance to die a slow, miserable, pointless death.

  6. If you are younger than 50, not overweight and have no other comorbidities, you have nothing to worry about. Anyone who thinks this Covid-19 is a death sentence if you are not vaccinated and don’t have the other co-morbidities is clueless

  7. @Jeff Your statement is not entirely accurate. Please let me explain.
    While people under 50 who are not overweight, and have no comorbidities generally survive Covid-19 illness, some continue to experience residual effects from it. So it doesn’t seem like there is nothing to worry about. Covid-19 is certainly not a death sentence for most people – vaccinated or not. Many people who have had Covid-19 have told me that you absolutely don’t want this thing.
    There are still plenty of things that remain unknown about the virus, so it’s not a bad idea to get a vaccine that is both very safe and very effective at preventing serious illness. I don’t necessarily believe vaccine mandates are the answer, but a little common sense on this matter is long overdue.

  8. @jeffdavis is one of those who spouts nonsense as it doesn’t fit the world view he is force fed through his favourite media.

  9. @Jeff – Local media (I live in a small city of ~130k people) ran a story around May of last year about how a local 29yo woman died. She owned a horse and went horseback riding every weekend, and was in good shape.

    She lost the genetic lottery and died in the hospital, alone, just 4 hours after texting people that she was alright.

    The family spent a lot of time describing the abject horror of the whole experience, where the hospital wouldn’t allow visitors in with the patient (COVID protocols), the husband had to quarantine both during her illness and after her death (COVID protocols), the hospital was overwhelmed with patients/understaffed (COVID patients), and she died alone. By their telling, she was the nicest person you’d ever meet and certainly didn’t deserve her awful fate.

    She essentially died of cellular asphyxiation because they couldn’t keep her oxygenation numbers up, even with an intubation and oxygen tank at the very end.

    You can ignore this tale, at your peril, but it doesn’t make it any less true. It might only be 0.1% of deaths, but you cannot reasonably say, “…you have nothing to worry about.” Clearly, we all have COVID to worry about.

  10. @Jeff and anyone else who thinks COVID is not something you should worry about if you are young and healthy. The best survival rates for those who end up in an ICU are 20%. That means that 8 out of every 10 die. Also those light cases everyone reads about have a very high incidence of sequelae, which run from losing your sense of smell to devastating neurological and cardiac consequences.
    I had a 45 day ICU stay plus another 15 days in a regular room, plus 4 months and counting of rehab. I was extremely lucky as I was admitted to the hospital on the day I was to get my first shot of the vaccine, people were dying fast and you really don’t know what it’s like until you are there. You don’t want to get first hand knowledge of this. Believe me

  11. > Some of the most junior pilots could go elsewhere, such as flying for a foreign carrier.

    @Gary tell me the name of any major non-US carrier that will hire unvaccinated people (outside of Africa). Carriers are not dumb, and are not hiring people who (1) are at much higher not to show up for work due to sickness (2) are immensely more costly to the health insurance budget and (3) are forbidden to fly into many countries or would be quarantined (currently just about all of the countries in the Middle East and Australasia, aviation’s highest growth markets).

  12. on-topic reply. Apologies.
    Are we avoid booking after Thanksgving then? Expecting industrial action are we?

  13. Money talks, nonsense walks.

    I imagine the hicks from Dallas and Charlotte might whine about a vaccine, but even the most idiotic pilot isn’t going to give up a career over vaccine that is proven safe and effective. They have no where to go. Most pilots don’t have a transferable skill set that pays 6 figures, nor are they going to start at the bottom of a foreign carrier with no worker protections.

    And even if the world is devoid of leadership on vaccine mandates, it is only a matter of time before they are required for international travel. Air crews will have to get them anyway. You’d have to be one hell of an idiot to think that you can have a career in aviation and not get the appropriate vaccines.

    That being said, American should have done a better job with implementation.

  14. Get a vaccine that does not protect you from getting covid even if u had covid and have the anti bodies you must get the shot. All so AA can secure government contracts its all about the money for these greedy scum bags from Joe biden all the way down to Doug parker. I hope the pilots walk and put this spineless company out of business

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