United to demand Covid vaccination for its 67,000 U.S. employees
United Airlines pilot Steve Lindland receives a COVID-19 vaccine from RN Sandra Manella at United’s on-site clinic at O’Hare International Airport on March 9, 2021 in Chicago, Illinois.
Scott Olson | Getty Images
United Airlines will require its 67,000 US employees to get vaccinated against Covid by October 25 at the latest on pain of termination, a first for major US carriers who will likely increase the pressure on their rivals.
Airlines, including United, have so far resisted vaccination mandates for all workers, instead offering incentives such as extra pay or time off to get vaccinated. Delta Air Lines began in May requiring newly hired employees to show proof of vaccination. United followed suit in June.
The United requirement is one of the most stringent vaccine mandates for a US business, and it includes employees who regularly interact with customers such as flight attendants and gate attendants.
US companies such as Facebook have announced that employees have to prove they have been vaccinated to return to the office. Others only require them for certain workers. Walmart, for example, said last week that it will be required for company staff and management-level employees. Uber said staff at the U.S. office will need to be vaccinated to return to the office, but did not ask drivers for one.
Meatpacker Tyson Foods said this week that its 120,000 U.S. employees are due to be fully vaccinated this year, although more than 50,000 already have.
“We know some of you will not agree with this decision to require the vaccine for all United employees,” United CEO Scott Kirby and Chairman Brett Hart said in a note to employees on Friday. . “But, we have no greater responsibility to you and your coworkers than keeping you safe while you are at work, and the facts are crystal clear: everyone is safer when everyone is vaccinated. “
United Airlines employees must upload proof that they received two doses of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson single dose five weeks after federal officials gave them full approval or before October 25 , whichever comes first, executives said. Exceptions will be made for certain health concerns or for religious reasons, United said.
Many United employees have already said they have been vaccinated, such as around 90% of pilots and 80% of flight attendants, according to company officials.
United did not say what the company’s overall vaccination rate is.
The move was driven in part by concerns about the increase in Covid-19 cases last year during the fall and winter, company officials said.