Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly said Tuesday that he opposes requiring his employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19 but acknowledged that his company must mandate the shot to comply with the Biden administration's federal contractor rules.
The Dallas-based airline announced last week that all employees must be vaccinated by Dec. 8 due to the Biden administration’s vaccine requirement for federal contractors. Southwest has large contracts with the U.S. government to transport government officials and supplies.
“I’ve never been in favor of corporations imposing that kind of a mandate. I’m not in favor of that. Never have been,” Kelly told CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street” on Tuesday before noting that the Biden administration rule forced his hand.
Southwest, which hasn’t said how many of its employees are vaccinated, is offering employees two days of pay to get vaccinated. Kelly said Tuesday that his goal is to retain as many employees as possible.
“If they can’t [get vaccinated], we’re urging them to seek an accommodation either for medical or religious reasons,” Kelly said. “The objective here, obviously, is to improve health and safety, not for people to lose their jobs.”
Nearly every major airline has implemented a vaccine mandate to comply with Biden’s order. Delta Air Lines, the only major carrier without a vaccine requirement, imposes a $200 monthly surcharge on unvaccinated workers.
Southwest Airlines and American Airlines said Tuesday that they will defy Texas Gov. Greg AbbottGreg AbbottOvernight Health Care — Presented by Carequest — Key CDC panel backs Moderna, J&J boosters GOP senators call on Biden to back down from vaccine mandates DeSantis to call special session of legislature to fight vaccine mandates MORE’s (R) executive order banning all vaccine mandates in the state, which directly clashes with the Biden administration rule.
“According to the President's executive order, federal action supersedes any state mandate or law, and we would be expected to comply with the President's order to remain compliant as a federal contractor,” a Southwest spokesperson said in a statement Tuesday.