American Airlines has delayed the implementation of laws requiring all employees to be vaccinated against Covid-19 until January 4, just hours after the Biden administration extended the deadline for government contractors to satisfy the requirements.
Previously, American Airlines’ more than 100,000 mainline employees had to receive their last Covid vaccine shot by Nov. 24. If getting a two-shot vaccine, it would be fully vaccinated by Dec. 8, the old deadline.
“Given this development, all U.S. team members and Latin America-based crew members have until Jan. 4, 2022, to submit proof of vaccination or an accommodation request,” CEO Doug Parker and American’s president, Robert Isom, wrote in an employee memo. The airline is also extending its offer of an extra vacation day and $50 worth of company incentives to Jan. 4.
Other airlines, including Southwest Airlines, are likely to follow suit. Both airlines have faced pushback from pilot labor organizations as well as some other employees to the rule. Airline executives have urged employees to request exemptions to fulfill the vaccination deadline, which was previously set for the day before Thanksgiving. The executives stated that they do not anticipate the regulation affecting holiday travel, but the revised deadline provides them more time to comply.
In September, the union representing American Airlines pilots warned Biden administration officials and senators that the 60-day implementation period might result in labor shortages and flight disruptions. In addition, the union sought alternatives to the obligation, such as frequent Covid testing. “We’re delighted to see there’s more time to grapple with this quite substantial presidential order,” Allied Pilots Association spokeswoman and American Airlines captain Dennis Tajer said after the federal contractor deadline was extended. According to him, the union is still urging that the government give “serious consideration” to a regular testing alternative in accordance with OSHA regulations.
American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Alaska Airlines, and JetBlue Airways are federal contractors jobs transporting US mail, government personnel, freight, and other services. Each of those airlines has stated that they will follow the standards issued by the Biden administration in September, which require federal contractors to ensure that their staff get vaccinated or receive an exemption.
The guidelines are tighter than the vaccine requirements issued by the Biden administration on Thursday for non-contractor enterprises with more than 100 employees, which allow employees to be tested rather than immunized regularly.
United Airlines implemented its policy in the summer requiring employees to be vaccinated, receive an exemption, or risk termination. The Chicago-based airline claims that more than 96 percent of its staff in the United States are immunized.
Delta Air Lines claims that 90 percent of its employees in the United States are immunized. The corporation did not issue a mandate, but it began charging unvaccinated employees $200 extra per month for workplace health insurance this month.