Three Major US Airlines Won’t Required Employees to Be Vaccinated

United Airlines announced last week that it will require employees in the United States to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by late October, perhaps sooner. United was the first major U.S. airline to announce such a move. But the CEOs of Southwest Airlines, American Airlines, and Delta Air Lines have all said they are not requiring unvaccinated employees to receive the shot, breaking with United’s mandate that workers get vaccinated by October 25th or face getting fired.

In an internal memo obtained by CNN, Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly said the airline will “continue to strongly encourage” that workers get vaccinated, but the airline’s stance has not shifted. “Obviously, I am very concerned about the latest Delta variant, and the effect on the health and safety of our employees and our operation, but nothing has changed,” Kelly said.

In May, Delta became the first major carrier to require that all new hires be vaccinated. United Airlines made a similar announcement in June. Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian said on Tuesday that 75% of its workforce has already been vaccinated even without a company-wide mandate. “I think there’s some additional steps and measures we can take to get the vaccine rates even higher, but what we’re seeing is every day is those numbers continue to grow,” Bastian said.

Both announcements follow a New York Times podcast interview with American Airlines CEO Doug Parker, who said the airline is giving workers who get vaccinated by the end of this month one extra day of vacation in 2022.

In a statement, American Airlines said there was “no update at this time” to its vaccination policy. “We are strongly encouraging our team members to get vaccinated, and we are offering an incentive for those who do.”

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