Where Will Anti-Vax Crew Go When American Airlines Fires Them?

American Airlines told employees earlier this year that they wouldn’t require vaccination. But the President of the United States told Doug Parker they had to. And the airline has now informed employees they have until November 24 to provide proof of vaccination or begin the termination process in advance of a December 8 federal deadline for government contractors to be fully vaccinated.

Airlines want their employees to be vaccinated, because they don’t want them getting sick and calling out sick causing the carrier to cancel flights due to lack of crew. As they rebuild their schedules they’ve had lack of crew, a result of pushing out workers despite federal subsidies meant to prevent them from doing so.

The airline says about 70% of pilots, and a majority of employees are vaccinated (compared to over 80% of employees at Delta, and a reported 99% at United though this excludes those that have been granted religious or medical exemptions).

Of course vaccine mandates for employees do little to protect passengers who spend most of their time exposed to a larger number of other passengers, in the security and check-in lines, the gate area, and in the middle seat next to them.

Employees don’t all want vaccines, especially at American Airlines where recent reports had over 4000 pilots unvaccinated. And some American employees picketed headquarters on Thursday. Pilots are the greatest risk to the airline (since it is much more time consuming and costly to replace pilots than other employees), but cabin crew social media groups have been lit up over the issue as well.

Some observers have wondered what a pilot that’s threatening to quit would do if they’re not flying for American Airlines. This is a good question because of union seniority.

  • At this point many U.S. regional carriers don’t have vaccine requirements.
  • Many foreign airlines don’t, but without vaccination flying to many destinations is simply not possible.
  • Leaving the current airline usually means “starting at the bottom” and giving up seniority, less pay, less attractive schedules, and overall lower quality of life.

Older pilots – one American pilot quoted in the piece has been flying with American for nearly 30 years – may be close to mandatory retirement anyway and would just choose to retire early.

The newest pilots may be less likely to be unvaccinated, but would be giving up less to move. However the bulk of pilots have too much to lose and I’d be surprised if they remain unvaccinated. Expect more fake vaccine cards.

American Airlines blames the federal government for its vaccine requirement with no option for regularly testing instead (that it’s treated as a government contractor rather than merely a large employer). And I suppose pilots might criticize the airline for refusing to give up its government subsidies.

I’m not sure what the change model is here, protesting in front of Skyview? It seems like those concerned with vaccine requirements should be protesting in front of the White House instead? The American Airlines pilots union is already threatening chaos over the holidays, and ruined travel plans, from the world’s largest airline have a shortage of pilots (and they already, still are short on pilots).

Last week in Phoenix, airline President Robert Isom was encouraging employees to get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. A single dose of J&J is less effective than an mRNA vaccine but is the easiest way to meet the requirement. There will also be religious and medical exemptions. United Airlines has told those granted such an exemption they may not work but won’t be fired. While not necessary for such an exemption one pastor sells religious exemption letters.

Southwest Airlines pilots, meanwhile, are suing their airline over the mandates. There will certainly be lawsuits against the OSHA requirements for employees of large employers to be vaccinated or test regularly, once they’re released, and those are likely to be on the shakiest legal footing.

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. NSL,
    you went to all of that trouble just to show us that you really don’t trust the vaccine to protect yourself. The vaccines are intended to reduce the severity of covid in vaccinated people. Vaccinated people are not immune from getting covid or from passing it to others.

    As others have noted, natural immunity does provide some level of immunity. All of the data about how many people have long-term covid symptoms doesn’t mean anything if someone who chooses not to get vaccinated is not one of them.

    And to those that commented about being able to demonstrate that you have antibodies or get a vaccine, the US is NOT providing the option to use demonstrated immunity as a reason to not get the vaccine. that is not true w/ other vaccinations.

    You and others want to be able to dictate what other people do with their own health – which has never happened before to adults across the board in the United States.

    As for the airline implications, there will very likely to be operational impacts not just at American but also at Southwest. Given that both airlines had pretty rough summers according to DOT data.

    The best bet is probably Delta which will not only have their usual strong operations but also a happy workforce that wasn’t bulldozed into a decision they didn’t want to make – assuming Delta doesn’t cave to Washington.

  2. Cabin crew is unskilled labor. In 3 weeks, I could train my Labrador Retriever to do a better job than do some of the AA inflight crew .

  3. @SE_Rob I hope you enjoyed your time in the black hills. It is a beautiful area. I grew up in South Dakota :).

  4. Where Will Anti-Vax Crew Go When American Airlines Fires Them?

    To hospital, with COVID-19.

  5. What’s the penalty/punishment to be faced by an airline employee who fraudulently misrepresents their vaccination status — say with a fake CDC card or false claim on a CDC card — and ends up caught for the vaccination fraud?

  6. No mercy for the un-vaaxed. It is not a personal health decision as ib, “My body my choice.”
    Un-vaaxed have public health consequences. The un-vaaxed often make others sick and thousands have died.
    IF I don’t approve of abortion, and my neighbor has an abortion, I don’t catch an abortion from her, it is not in any way similar to “My Body My Choice.”

    Every day I see where vaax mandates through the employer work. Just yesterday I read a story on a fire fighter in Beverly Hills, who was under a vaax or get fired deadline. There were 6 of them not vaaxed, 5 went and got vaaxed the day before the deadline one didn’t, he is crying now on unpaid administrative leave with the next step his termination next month. Work mandates are effective in forcing more ppl to take the vaax, it works.

    It is the unvaaxed who are spreading the virus and I am sick of them and their antics. Their refusal to vaax doesn’t just affect them, it affects the other people in the grocery store they shop at, the people at the next table over in the restaurant, the people waiting to check in at the airport, if we want to safely go to the movies again we need more of our population vaaxed and at this date in time, mandates are the only way to accomplish the goal.

  7. Older Woman might want to take a peek at what is going on in the UK (a heavily vaccinated country) or Israel where the vaccinated are contracting and spreading covid at a higher rate than the unvaccinated. A preview to what is coming here.

  8. Middle Aged man might take a peek at who is sucking up all our healthcare resources and exhausting our healthcare providers, (hint – it is not the vaaxed). Although even with the vaax you might catch Covid, however you are just going to be sick as a dog at home and not need a ventilator. It is the unvaaxed and unmasked who are predominate spreaders of the virus. Man died becasue he could not get a heart operation, laid in OR for 9 hours while dic tried hospitals hunderds of miles away for an open ICU bed which would be required after heart surgery. He couldn’t find an open ICU bed and the heart patient died. If in his shoes I would have kicked an unvaaxed covid patient out of ICU and made the bed available to the heart patient.

  9. Older Woman might want to reschedule her elective surgeries because nurses are quitting in droves because a number aren’t going to take the jab. THAT is the effect vaccination mandates. For some airlines, it means there will be staff shortages esp. since the “due date” is right before the holidays.

    I doubt if the risk-benefit math is as bad for as many people as are choosing not to get the vaccine but I don’t tell people whether they should choose chemo for cancer treatment or use other treatments – that is their choice.

    And those that continue to talk about the risk to the public because of the unvaccinated do not really believe in efficacy of the vaccine. The unvaccinated hurt themselves.

  10. Timm Dunn Your choice of cancer treatment does not give me cancer.
    This is BS about the shortage of healthcare workers, One big one with 35,000 employees who issued the mandate, only 400 employees refused to comply. The fact of the matter is employee issued mandates work really really well and I am so glad we have them.

    I beleive in the efficacy of the vaccine I know that my chances of needing to be admitted to the hospital with Covid are very very slim. The ICU beds are FULL of the UNVACCINATED, not the vaccinated.

  11. If unvaccinated readers would only read the twitter account for-
    She writes like this every day, she is an ICU nurse

    “Yesterday my team were successful in saving an expectant mother who coded 3 times. Day shift also saved her a couple of times. Tonight we were unsuccessful in saving her. Our 3rd expecting mother we have lost since August 14th. Sadly, none were far enough along to save babies”
    (The mother was unvaccinated)

  12. nobody is doubting that there are seriously ill people from covid, some of which are dying.
    1/3 of a nurses at a major Ohio hospital said they would quit before getting the vaccine. Who knows how many will follow through w/ that threat but we can’t afford for one health care professional to walk off the job, even if covid stopped today – and hospitalizations and cases are going down.
    btw, if you remember, the goal the CDC set a 70% target for vaccination; that OH hospital has reached it and yet the goal has been moved there and at many other companies to 100%. Was the 70% goal not enough to make a difference – and if so, why did medical experts get it wrong – or are there other factors such as the track record of vaccines and the requirement for repeated boosters that are driving vaccine hesitancy.

  13. “Older woman”, have you read what they are doing in India? which is packed with people? they are NOT vaccinating them, they are giving them an alternative “old” medicine called Ivermectine and it works! Also, research and see what is happening in Israel! the whole country is vaccinated and they have the highest rate of covid patients there!

  14. Where will they go? Hopefully to get educated? Other than that I honestly don’t give a fuck. Now can you stop with these awkward stories where you pretend like selfish cowards who hate their fellow Americans are both patriots and victims? Good lord.

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