Several airlines have notified employees that the federal government will require to be vaccinated with no alternative for regular tests instead. That’s because the Biden administration has decided to treat airlines as federal contractors, and subject to their order that government contractors must have 100% vaccination among employees, rather than companies with 200+ employees under a pending OSHA rule.
Here’s the American Airlines note to employees;
The message is that since American Airlines – like other U.S. airlines – is a government-subsidized carrier, the government can impose employment policies.
American has cargo contracts with the government, takes subsidies for specific routes, and takes revenue from the Civil Reserve Air Fleet program (in exchange for providing planes for flights about once a decade).
This is going to be a problem for American, with over 4000 unvaccinated pilots. Some will get vaccinated. Others might take an early retirement. American is already short on pilots.
One American Airlines pilot really did have a point in a recent employee meeting that federal rules don’t account for the science on prior infection. Someone who previously had Covid-19 and gets a single shot of an mRNA vaccine is better protected than someone that’s double-vaccinated. (That pilot could, of course, go get Johnson & Johnson if he wanted to…)
Ultimately American Airlines probably didn’t do enough earlier, offering a day off and $50 in “Nonstop THanks” credits (airline scrip). In contrast United with its “take a jab or you’re fired” approach and Delta’s “health insurance surcharge for the unvaccinated” led to higher vaccination rates among employees already – making them less vulnerable to this change in rules by the federal government.
It’s expected that employees will have to be vaccinated by December 8th – before the holidays. I wouldn’t expect that date to be pushed back yet but if there’s not substantial compliance then expect it to be pushed back at the last minute because the Biden administration doesn’t want to be blamed for ruining Christmas travel.