Don’t Expect American Airlines To Require Vaccination For Travel (They Won’t Require It For Employees)

Doug Parker told American Airlines employees this past week in a ‘Crew News’ meeting that while they encourage vaccination they will not require employees to get vaccinated for Covid-19, though noting that some countries may require vaccines for entry so employees who don’t may not be eligible to work certain flights.

If flight crew aren’t required to be vaccinated, I do not see how they would be able to require that passengers be vaccinated. Passengers would still be flying with crew who may not be.

  • If the vaccines reduce transmission of the virus, which is likely, passengers wouldn’t be availing themselves of the full protection since crewmembers might not be vaccinated.

  • American couldn’t claim ‘everyone on board has been vaccinated’ so they’d be unable to take advantage of any marketing benefits that would accrue from the requirement.

Of course by the time vaccine available is sufficiently widespread where it would be practical to require it, enough people will likely have been vaccinated so that the pandemic is controlled.

In November the CEO of American Airlines joint venture partner Qantas announced they planned to require vaccination in order to fly. U.S. airlines have had internal discussions about following suit. However I do not see how American Airlines could require passengers but not crew to have been vaccinated in order to travel.

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. Hey Gary,

    If someone is very concerned and does not want to get Covid -19, then they should get the vaccine, right? If another chooses not to get the vaccine, and they get Covid-19 in a plane, train, bus, office, or playing baseball and touching another player who has it, then they cannot complain as it was their choice not to get the vaccine. Why then to force everybody to get the vaccine? I think people should be free to decide if they want to get it or not…

  2. If American Airlines will not require crew members to receive COVID immunizations, the outcome is that AA crews would be forbidden to fly non-rev or rev on Qantas. Accordingly, there might be less chance of passengers getting COVID-19 infections on Qantas flights than with other airlines.

  3. This is good news. Vaccine mandates run into one of two dangers. Either they become effective too soon, barring people from travel who simply can’t yet access the vaccine, or they become effective too late, requiring people to be vaccinated against a virus that is no longer widely circulating and for which most people are vaccinated anyway. It also creates the stupid situation in which people who very recently recovered from the virus must then get unnecessarily vaccinated, risking side effects with zero known benefit (as we have no research suggesting that vaccine acquired immunity lasts longer than infection acquired immunity).

  4. My understanding is that the vaccines are under and FDA EUA (emergency use authorization). Those vaccines can’t be mandatory because they aren’t fully cleared by the FDA. Even hospitals which fire employees who won’t get the flu vaccine each year can’t make their workers take this.

  5. At some point they will have to change their policies. Proof either of vaccination or having already had COVID will need to be required between the point when vaccines are generally available and the point when herd immunity is attained, which would likely be a few months later. Certainly it will be required for most international travel. My question is when proof of vaccine will supplement or replace proof of negative test as a requirement for international travel.

    The first priority is to get the vaccines out, and this needs to be managed with a full “all hands on deck, no excuses” mentality. Every day thousands die as the authorities try to figure out how to pigeonhole people into priority groups. Literally every person I have talked to very much wants the vaccine. Actually it should be like a boarding process. Group One can board (get vaccinated) first, but you don’t hold up the process to wait for stragglers. You call on Group Two when the first have had an adequate chance and board groups One and Two. And so forth until all groups are on the plane. Use the Defense Production Act to ramp up supply; build factories; charter transportation craft; hire nurses out of retirement.

    I have been unblinded. I got the Moderna vaccine back in August and September. It works. Let’s get it out urgently, not lackadaisically. Kudos to them – I was told they were supposed to prioritize health professionals first for unblinding, but got tired of seeing appointment slots go unfilled while waiting for people to return phone calls and schedule them. So they opened up the unblinding to all trial participants and I reported to the clinic the first chance I had.

    Faster, please!

  6. @Mario

    That would work assuming that everyone can take a vaccine, there are however people who can’t for health reasons.

    The idea is that by as many other people as possible getting the vaccine it creates a form of herd immunity which stops those who cannot take the vaccine, who would be vulnerable to the virus, from getting the virus in the first place.

    I am not advocating for a government mandate to get a vaccine, just explaining that not everyone has the choice to take the vaccine as you put it. For the greater good, those who can take it should, to protect those who cannot.

  7. Hypothetical question for Gary and others: How many Chase or AMEX points would you redeem for a COVID vaccination today (which is a few months earlier than I would assume you would get it otherwise)?

  8. I don’t understand the arguments of the people in favor of requiring vaccines, thinking that getting a vaccine helps others. But perhaps I am missing something.

    According to the CDC, being vaccinated does not mean that one cannot spread the virus, and thus even vaccinated travelers are required to show negative test results to board flights to the US.

    If being vaccinated does not prevent spreading the disease, why would it help with anything to require passengers, flight crews, etc. to be vaccinated? It seems like then it should be a personal choice. Perhaps they could allow unvaccinated to sign waivers stating that they acknowledge the personal risk of not being vaccinated.

  9. @Nathan – this is why vaccine tourism is actually a thing, to get a vaccine for me and for my wife in February rather than April or May? I’d spend a million miles to have the increased confidence, freedom, and reduced health risk that comes from, say, both doses of the Pfizer shot.

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