United Airlines Will Require All Employees To Be Vaccinated Starting Late October

United Airlines will require all of its employees to be vaccinated. This requirement will be effective the sooner of 5 weeks after FDA full approval of a Covid-19 vaccine, or 5 weeks after September 20.

“We know some of you will disagree with this decision to require the vaccine for all United employees,” United CEO Scott Kirby and President Brett Hart said Friday in an employee note. “But, we have no greater responsibility to you and your colleagues than to ensure your safety when you’re at work, and the facts are crystal clear: everyone is safer when everyone is vaccinated.”

United Airlines employees must upload proof that they received two doses of Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or one dose of Johnson & Johnson’s single dose five weeks after federal officials give full approval to them or by Oct. 25, whichever is first, the executives said. Exceptions will be made for certain health issues or religious reasons, United said.

The FDA is expected to fully approve the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine next month, and the Moderna vaccine shortly after that.

CEO Scott Kirby said back in January that he wanted to require all employees to be vaccinated. He even said he’d imposed vaccinated-only seating sections but that the government won’t allow it.

In contrast, Delta says new employees only must be vaccinated, while Ameican doesn’t plan to require vaccination (though American CEO Doug Parker has said that competitive pressure could require them to change their position).

From a customer standpoint, knowing employees are vaccinated is comforting but most of the people you come into contact with are other customers, not employees, and there’ll be no requirement that all passengers are vaccinated.

In releasing new mask guidance, the CDC has said that vaccinated individuals may be just as likely to spread the virus when infected as unvaccinated individuals. However vaccine mandates are still helpful to protect others, and this CDC guidance was misleading,

  • Vaccinated individuals are still less likely to be infected in the first place
  • Even if viral loads are similar, vaccinated individuals who get infected appear to be infectious for shorter periods of time

Indeed the studies on which the CDC guidance is based are far from definitive, for instance the Provincetown study doesn’t necessarily show transmission from vaccinated individuals, involves mostly indoor activity (much of it was intimate activity).

More vaccination means less spread, and fewer virus mutations. It means less severe disease and fewer hospitalizations. It means less risk in the workplace and less transmission between employees and between employees and customers. However the degree of reduction in risk is in question, especially since the passenger you’re squeezed next to in a middle seat may not be vaccinated.

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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. Good and I expect many more companies to follow suit. Courts have consistently ruled companies have the right to require vaccines. Also, for those thinking of quitting instead of getting vaccinated, you will be ineligible for unemployment in most states since you effectively resigned instead of being let go.

    In other words, think before any knee jerk reactions if you object to your employer implementing such a requirement.

  2. This is good. It’s coming from more businesses too.

    Just a passing thought, has anyone seen the daily news about Spirit’s continuing operational meltdown? Out thought lesser has not said much. But we can be sure, if it was his favorite airline to keep in the crosshairs, he’d be opining on it every day along with his armchair critique of what they are doing wrong and how to improve.

  3. I know this will certainly garner some response before I start I have been vaccinated. Here is my issue NONE of these vaccines have been formally approved by the FDA and given the amount of time from when the emergency approval ( and I understand and agree with this) none have been formally approved. Is there something I am missing? Delta’s CEO made a great point I am paraphrasing how can I mandate a vaccine that is not even approved by the FDA he is right the potential liability is huge.

    Hey if you have been vaccinated what do you have to worry about? That has been repeated hundreds of time by .gov

    Just saying folks

  4. Will be interesting what UAL unions have to say. Would not surprise me if they say that it must be negotiated.
    When I see the vaccines fully approved, then I’ll believe that Biden is serious.

  5. The problem with the covid vaccine is that its not a one and done shot. It is at least a yearly shot for the rest of your life. Moderna and Pfizer say it could be multiple yearly for the rest of your life depending on variants.

    All those dozens of shots and the best science can say is your symptoms might be less severe. You can still get it and spread it.

    Requiring it now leaves any company in a bad spot if its determined down the road that yearly shots are too costly or unfeasible from a supply standpoint. You would have required a pointless vaccine.

    What kind of vaccine requires you to take a yearly shot for life? One that doesnt really work.

  6. @Felicia – Employers have broad authority to implement work rules that protect their work force and customers. This have been ruled on numerous times and has always been upheld. People that are not vaccinated are not a protected class under discrimination laws (that applies to thinks like age, sex, race, nationality, sexual preference, etc). For a similar requirement, think about companies that require a drug test before employment and have random testing. You could argue that discriminates against drug users but they, also, are not a protected class.

    @Ghostrider5408 and @LennyD – it has been announced the FDA will likely approve the Pfizer vaccine for general use (as opposed to the current emergency authorization) by Labor Day with Moderna’s vaccine quickly following. This will enable many more companies and government entities to require it.

    I love the momentum on vaccine requirements and am also in favor of what NYC is doing by restricting access to indoor dining to people who are vaccinated. Much of Europe is going down a similar path and you have to present proof of vaccination in many places to check into a hotel or do practically anything indoors. I also would be in favor of restricting airline and other public transit to vaccinated people and that is something the White House is considering once the vaccinations have full approval.

  7. “What kind of vaccine requires you to take a yearly shot for life? One that doesnt really work.”

    The yearly flu vaccine.

  8. @ Wesley – the flu shot.
    @ LennyD – unions can say whatever. the law supports this policy
    @ Felicia – discrimination against who? the virus? (non-vaccinated are not a protected class)

  9. @1KBrad – EXACTLY!!! Many people also don’t know the H1N1 vaccine was incorporated into the yearly flu shot. There is no reason there couldn’t be a general annual coronavirus shot (flu is also a coronavirus) which I suspect will occur in the next couple of years where your annual flu shot also includes COVID 19 protection along with possibly other similar such diseases.

  10. @Felicia, it is not “discrimination” in any legally actionable way. The EEOC has issued clear guidance for many years that vaccination requirements are not a problem under the ADA, and they have already issued supplemental guidance specific to the covid vaccines.

  11. What about those who had the it already? There is sufficient debate and studies out from what I have read that natural immunity is better than that given by ‘the jab’ but all you people say is get vaccinated, get vaccinated. Why should someone who had it and has natural antibodies be forced by you out there to get the shot? I guess you no longer trust your immunity system?

  12. The annual flu shot is not mandatory. not at United or any US airline that I know of.
    Only about half of seniors get the flu shot and even lower percentages for other demographics – and the flu kills, is contagious, and is a respiratory disease.

  13. It makes sense for jobs where people have to interact with others for them to be vaccinated.

  14. I think this is great! All the United employees take the magical miracle cure, so now the rest of us can take off the face diapers. God bless the science!

  15. How is it that Frontier can come up with a regular testing option for those employees that do not want to get vaccinated but United cannot?

  16. @Jeff, I was thinking discrimination against ppl who choose not to get the vaccine.
    It is definitely setting the stage for companies going forward.

  17. Don’t support this violation of bodily autonomy for a shot that doesn’t even do what was originally promised

  18. I would encourage any UA employees who don’t want the vaccine to not resign but to force UA to fire them. Then they would be eligible for unemployment compensation.

  19. @Dale. Who pays for unemployment? United? Then to recoup, fares increase. How is this a win-win?

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