Southwest Airlines requires all US employees to get vaccinated

Southwest Airlines requires all US employees to get vaccinated
© Greg Nash

Southwest Airlines will require its U.S. employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19, joining other major carriers in announcing vaccine mandates. 

The Dallas-based airline said Monday that all employees must be vaccinated by Dec. 8 due to the Biden administration’s vaccine requirement for federal contractors. Between contracts to transport government employees and members of the military and provide other services, the U.S. government is Southwest’s single largest customer.

“Southwest Airlines is a federal contractor and we have no viable choice but to comply with the U.S. government mandate for employees to be vaccinated, and — like other airlines — we’re taking steps to comply,” Southwest CEO Gary Kelly told employees in a memo.

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Southwest employees must show proof of vaccination or get a medical or religious exemption to continue employment with the airline, the company said.

Last week, American Airlines, Alaska Airlines and JetBlue Airways announced they would require employees to get vaccinated due to their status as federal contractors. 

“While we are still working through the details of the federal requirements, it is clear that team members who choose to remain unvaccinated will not be able to work at American Airlines,” American Airlines executives told employees in a memo last week.

In August, United Airlines became the first major carrier to require vaccinations. The company said last week that only around 300 employees — only a small fraction of its workforce — did not comply and would be laid off. 

“Our rationale for requiring the vaccine for all United’s U.S.-based employees was simple — to keep our people safe — and the truth is this: everyone is safer when everyone is vaccinated, and vaccine requirements work,” United executives wrote to employees last week.

Delta Air Lines is now the only major carrier that is not mandating vaccinations for all employees. The company requires new employees to get vaccinated and imposes a $200 monthly surcharge for unvaccinated workers enrolled in the airline’s health care plan.