Biden Administration Demands Airlines Mandate Employee Vaccination By December 8

United Airlines reported over 99% compliance with its vaccine mandate. Employees either had to get vaccinated or get an exemption (religious, medical) though those with an exemption wouldn’t be allowed to work. The unpaid leave rule was announced (1) on the day airline CEOs had a White House event, (2) right before the President announced a series of vaccine mandates.

American Airlines has over 4000 unvaccinated pilots. Pending federal rules will require them to be vaccinated to keep their jobs. The airline has talked about two potential levels of mandates,

  • As a federal contractor, they must be fully vaccinated
  • As a company with 200+ employers, they’ll have to require vaccination or weekly testing

Pilots have asked to push off vaccination rules, warning that the holiday travel season could melt down due to lack of cockpit crew.

Of course the relevant OSHA rules haven’t been promulgated yet. Still, the airlines received $79 billion in direct aid from the federal government during the pandemic, and commercial aviation is one of the most heavily regulated industries in the country. The big U.S. carriers used to pretend to be against government involvement in the industry. Now they’re on the lookout for even more subsidies, this time for next-generation more environmentally-friendly fuel.

So when the President speaks, they listen. And the Biden Administration is demanding airlines get vaccinated fast.

White House COVID-19 response coordinator Jeffrey Zients spoke to the chief executives of American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and Southwest Airlines on Thursday to ensure that they are working expeditiously to develop and enforce vaccine requirements ahead of a Dec. 8 deadline for federal contractors, the sources said.

Some airline officials have asked the White House to push back the requirements until after the busy holiday travel season.

This is a much heavier hammer than airlines – other than United – have been willing to employ. Delta announced a health care surcharge for unvaccinated workers. American has offered $50 scrip and a day off in 2022.

Notice that airline officials – worried about their holiday business – aren’t suggesting they give up their federal contractor status, carrying mail as cargo and taking annual payments to participate in the Civil Reserve Air Fleet program. It’s the stream of government revenue that’s the club to get Delta, American, Southwest and other carriers to fall in line with United.

If the Biden administration doesn’t blink, pilots are going to have to be vaccinated to fly. They don’t currently even have to wear masks in the cockpit.

While many unvaccinated pilots will get jabbed, and union senior rules mean that the more senior the pilot the harder it is for them to just leave and go fly for someone else, the concern is that the most senior pilots will take retirement. That will also have a cascading effect requiring pilots to get retrained on different equipment, also as a result of union rules.

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. What’s with all the mandates? Biden/Harris and their declared progressive supporters need only to look in the mirror to understand how their mouths and anti-Trump antagonistic attitude poisoned the well for everybody not dozing on the banks of the Potomac. People do not know what to believe or follow. We were a calmer society as we awaited development of the polio vaccine and stood in line to be injected.

    Today even the integrity of our federal health agencies have become.

    How pathetic.

  2. It should be an interesting few months. I’m a firm believer that the most powerful “law” is that of unintended consequences.

    We may look back at these mandates as the turning point in the pandemic that leads us to a better tomorrow. Or they may trigger any number of negative consequences including economic, societal and political. Anyone who claims to know the answer for certain is full of poop.

    Even though I disagree with most government mandates on principle, I give Biden credit for having the cajones to make such a bold move. Sometimes you gotta roll the hard 6!

  3. United has achieved almost 100% compliance after implementing mandate (330 pilots have applied for exemption and only 20 pilots will be fired). Can you provide a rationale for why American, Delta, and Southwest pilots will behave any differently than United pilots if those airlines also mandate vaccinations similar to United?

  4. @ Gary — If the pilots don’t want to comply, they should be fired. How is it that the very people we are entrusting with our lives are too stupid to safeguard their own lives?

  5. The irony is that we were told for four years by the left in this country that Trump was worse than Hitler. Now when in power, the Democrats seem to be using the power of the executive branch in much more intrusive and authoritarian ways than the worse than Hitler president.

    Airline customers should be worried about this. If Biden starts requiring booster shots, a smart airline union would find a way to use it as a bargaining chip to extract concessions from management. An airline cant fire all its pilots or FA’s.

  6. @Gene Pilots need to take a medical every six months to fly. Most if not all covid co-morbidities disqualify pilots. Pilots are very low risk of death or serious illness even the most senior ones. Anti-science Gene still thinks everyone will die if they get covid.

  7. I commend the president for taking a bold stand! There is nothing worse than watered down policies. Either your going to do it or not! I hope they don’t blink from the December deadline! The chips may fall where they do. The aviation industry, management in particular, has a way of trying to say the sky will fall with any sort of regulation but the sky has not fallen. In fact, management thought the sky would permanently fall at the beginning of the pandemic, and now look at how hard it is to ramp back up because they took too drastic measures relating to downsizing. I knew this would end in 1-2 years, and they should have as well. The aviation industry has recovered materially from every perceived or actual disaster in America and come back roaring! 9/11, many recession, Covid, take your pick!

  8. Hawaiian, United, Frontier, Alaska and JetBlue are complying with the mandate. It’s too bad the others can’t do what is right by all. Thank you, POTUS!

  9. What @Unclesam said.

    Mandating vaccination got virtually all United’s employees vaccinated. Nothing different about other airlines. They’ll fall in line too.

  10. There’s an important word missing from the headline “staff”. I read this as requiring vax to fly

  11. I think everyone or nearly everyone should be vaccinated, like 99%.

    I think that this demand won’t really make a dent. There are 2 major possibilities. One is that every person counts so this is a way to boost the numbers. The other possibility is like anti-abortion politicians do with abortion laws. They keep adding requirements here and here, like prior notification, no public funds, ultrasound required, hospital privileges required, etc. This might be a little method trying to require all people be vaccinated.

    If Biden is doing the later, then he should require that all postal recipients must get vaccinated. If you could potentially receive mail, you must be vaccinated because there’s a chance that the letter carrier will need a signature for a certified letter.

  12. I work for a company with hundreds of thousands of people across different state lines and countries.

    I am personally in favor of in order to return to work you either get vaccinated to sign a waiver of rights to litigate

    There are far too many issues to mandate. Religious objection, Pregnancy concerns, General distrust that the vaccine has been adequately tested over a long enough period of time.

    I’m vaccinated and so is my immediate family. Mandating vaccination seems like overreaching

  13. I can’t believe an older, senior pilot–exactly the type of individual most at risk for being affected by Covid or ‘long Covid’–would opt for retirement over 2 jabs of a vaccine.

    Today I met with a 30 yr-old, healthy young male athlete who had Covid in August 2020. He says he felt like he had the flu for a few weeks. Interestingly, about 6 weeks later, when seemingly recovered, he lost his sense of smell and taste. His doctor told him this is not unusual. Now, one year later, he says he has only regained about 20% of those senses. So it’s not just about dying or not dying–its also about having all of your senses, in more ways than one.

  14. A Vaccine Mandate where the Vaccine makers can’t be held accountable for any symptoms or deaths.
    A Vaccine where the creator of the mRNA technology says he has serious concerns over it.
    A Vaccine for a virus with 99% survival rate.
    A Vaccine where opposing doctors are censored for expressing concerns
    A vaccine with ZERO evidence of long term safety
    A vaccine that does nothing for the spread of the Virus
    A vaccine pushed by the same people that abused the DOJ, Intelligence Communities and the media to push a Russian Hoax on the public.
    A Vaccine where the number of people dying from it is being hidden from the public
    A Vaccine for a virus that was created as a biological weapon
    A Vaccine pushed by Dr Fauci, who was funding biological weapons at the Wuhan Lab
    A Vaccine that is so worthless that they are pushing for 3rd and 4th boosters

  15. Thank you President Biden (who, by the way, I disagree with on lots of other issues). Next require it for all passengers. We simply have to get past the idea of bending over backwards to make it convenient to refuse vaccination. Most of us want to end the COVID catastrophe, not live for years and years with endlessly changing rules and risks to preserve the rights of a minority to crowd our ICUs and die a slow, miserable death. Other people need the facilities and staff of the hospital and space in the morgue too.

    So many said the world would come to an end when Reagan fired the air traffic controllers. We survived. We’ll survive what will end up as a small number of pilots choosing to give up their $200,000 a year jobs. I hear fast food places are hiring.

  16. Eff the pilots. The more unvaccinated people out there, the more danger to my children. Yes, children, who have no vaccine to turn to, are dying NOW. Your “rights” end where my children’s health begins!
    So go retire, and I hope you die a slow, painful death you selfish scum!

  17. Please provide data by workgroup to show that the pilots or any other workgroup are the problem.

    Worth noting that Merck said trials for their oral treatment pill that is like Tamiflu achieved better results than vaccines in reducing the risk of the risk of severe illness.

    Maybe, just maybe, vaccines aren’t the only or even best way to treat covid.

    Also, it is far from certain that there is any real benefit in getting from 80% vaccination rates to 100% for a company. Even countries that have higher vaccination rates than 80% are still seeing breakthrough cases.

    signed, one who is vaccinated but isn’t willing to throw others under the bus for having a different mindset.

  18. Amusing that people who object to a vaccine that has been given to millions are ready to accept monoclonal antibodies or this new barely tested but promising Merck treatment. There are MANY medical rules that pilots have to follow.
    And every statement by @Rick is full of BS

  19. @Joge Paez

    “So go retire, and I hope you die a slow, painful death you selfish scum!”

    Sir, you have mental health issues to be resolved before you post on line. I hope you get help.

  20. Go Biden! It’s about time we have a president who cares. I believe everyone flying should be vaccinated. Other countries deal with this without a whimper. In order to get things as close to normal as possible, people need to get their shot. My 12 year old son asked for the shot on his birthday. I hate that this got political! I was in Greece in August and our cab driver told us he’d had his 2nd shot in March! He found it shocking that this became a political issue in America. How difficult is it to put health over politics?

  21. @ Rick — Try turning off FoxNews and Tucker Carlson’s lying and turning on your brain. You are uttering mostly nonsense.

  22. I’m still waiting for the announcement from the White House stating that folks can obtain an exemption by proving that they take Ivermectin on a daily basis

  23. Biden is the dictator you leftist loons delusionally thought Trump was.

    So much for “my body my choice” you hypocrites

    Covid is never going away – this is just a huge power grab by those whose goal in life is to control you into submission.

  24. So pilots at the major carriers make a nice 6 figure salary, especially if on a widebody and in the left seat, are going to quit their jobs enmasse….rrriiiiggghhhhtttt!!!! Get the jab, keep your job.

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