Texas airlines defy Abbott, comply with Biden vaccine order

American Airlines and Southwest Airlines will continue to require COVID-19 vaccinations for their employees as required by the Biden administration, defying Texas Gov. Greg AbbottGreg AbbottAppeals court allows Texas abortion law to stand DeSantis pledges to sue Biden administration over vaccine mandates Biden touts progress but warns US in 'critical period' as millions remain unvaccinated MORE’s (R) executive order banning all vaccine mandates in the state.

The Texas-based carriers recently announced that all employees must get the shots to comply with the Biden administration’s vaccine requirement for federal contractors. Both airlines have large contracts with the U.S. government to transport supplies and federal officials. 

Abbott signed an executive order Monday that prohibits any entity with 100 or more employees from implementing COVID-19 vaccine mandates, directly challenging the Biden administration’s vaccine requirement. The airlines said Tuesday that they will comply with the federal government rule over Abbott’s executive order. 

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“We are reviewing the executive order issued by Gov. Abbott, but we believe the federal vaccine mandate supersedes any conflicting state laws, and this does not change anything for American,” an American Airlines spokesperson said in a statement.

Southwest Airlines took the same stance Tuesday, stating that “federal action supersedes any state mandate or law.”

Nearly every major airline announced a vaccine mandate after the Biden administration said that all government contractors must be vaccinated by Dec. 8. Delta Air Lines, the only major carrier without a vaccine requirement, imposes a $200 monthly surcharge on unvaccinated workers.

Abbott’s new executive order is a reversal from his previous stance that the government shouldn’t tell private businesses how to handle vaccine mandates.   

Renae Eze, Abbott's press secretary, said in a statement that the Biden administration rule "left employers with the unfair choice of either violating federal regulations or losing their valued employees."
 
"The Governor’s executive order will help protect Texans from having to make that choice,” she said.