United Airlines CEO says employees exempt from vaccine ‘won’t be in front of customers’

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United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby said employees who receive medical or religious exemptions from its COVID-19 vaccine mandate won’t be interacting with customers.

“For all of our customer-facing employees … for those exemptions we are going to work to find some other place for people to work, but, alternatively, they are going to go on temporary leave on Sept. 28,” Kirby said in an interview on CNN’s “New Day” Thursday.

The employees will be allowed back when the company feels it is “safe for them to be back in the workforce,” he said. 

Kirby said only a small portion of its workforce got an exemption, adding anyone who goes on temporary leave due to the exemption will not get paid. 

The vaccine mandate for United Airlines’s workers did lead to a number of resignations, Kirby said. 

He would not say if he was in favor of vaccine mandates for customers who are flying, saying he believes the best way to go about getting more people vaccinated is through employer mandates. Anthony Fauci, the White House’s chief medical adviser, recently said he supports a vaccine mandate for domestic travel. 

Kirby said the Biden administration’s plan to require all employers with more than 100 employees to get their employees vaccinated is the “most efficient way” to handle the issue, instead of creating “friction in airports.”

“We’ll follow whatever the government tells us to do, but that’s probably the way to get a high percentage of this country vaccinated,” he added. 

There have been at least 1,000 customers who have been banned from flying with United Airlines due to tension over mask mandates on planes. 

Many companies began requiring vaccinations for employees even before the Biden administration’s plan was announced, particularly in fields like health care and those with high levels of human interaction. Employers have been testing various penalties or incentives to encourage vaccinations among those who remain skeptical. 

Delta Air Lines recently said 4,000 employees decided to get the vaccine after it announced a $200 surcharge on its health care plan for those who weren’t inoculated against COVID-19. 

Tags Anthony Fauci COVID-19 vaccine mandate United Airlines

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