United becomes first major airline to mandate vaccines for employees
United Airlines will require its U.S. employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19 this fall, becoming the first major airline to implement a vaccine mandate.
The airline’s decision came as several corporations announced vaccine requirements for their employees to counter the spread of the highly contagious delta variant.
“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 told employees in a memo Friday. “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 employees will be required to show proof of vaccination five weeks after the Food and Drug Administration grants the COVID-19 vaccines full approval, or Oct. 25, whichever comes first. Federal officials are expected to approve Pfizer’s vaccine by early next month.
All of the company’s 67,000 employees will be subject to the vaccine mandate, except for those exempted for medical or religious reasons.
“Over the last 16 months, Scott has sent dozens of condolences letters to the family members of United employees who have died from COVID-19,” United’s executives told employees. “We’re determined to do everything we can to try to keep another United family from receiving that letter.”
United officials told news outlets that about 80 percent of its flight attendants and 90 percent of its pilots are already vaccinated. In June, United required all newly hired employees to be vaccinated after Delta Air Lines implemented the same measure in May.
President Biden last week required federal employees to get vaccinated or be subject to masking, social distancing and weekly testing. He encouraged private companies to follow his lead as part of a nationwide effort to defeat the virus.
This week, some major employers announced vaccine mandates. Tyson Foods on Tuesday said it would require all of its employees to get vaccinated by the fall. Facebook and Microsoft extended a vaccine requirement to its in-person staff, while Walmart required its corporate employees get the jab.