United Airlines says nearly all of its workers have received the vaccination; Others may be kicked out: NPR

United Airlines pilot Steve Lindland receives a COVID-19 vaccine at O’Hare International Airport.

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Scott Olson / Getty Images

United Airlines pilot Steve Lindland receives a COVID-19 vaccine at O’Hare International Airport.

Scott Olson / Getty Images

United Airlines promotes COVID-19 success vaccine mandate, Saying that more than 99% of its US-based employees have either met the company’s requirements for vaccination, or have applied for a religious or medical exemption.

But fewer than 600 United employees who had not been vaccinated by the airline’s September 27 deadline now face dismissal.

“This is a historic achievement for our company, our employees, as well as the customers and communities we serve,” United CEO Scott Kirby and President Bret Hart said in a memo to employees. “Our rationale for requiring the vaccine for all US employees residing in the US was simple – to keep our employees safe – and the fact is that everyone is safer when everyone is vaccinated, and the vaccine requirements work.”

United announced August 6 that the Chicago-based airline is requiring the vaccination of all 67,000 of its US-based employees. At the time, the airline said about 90% of pilots and 80% of flight attendants had already been vaccinated.

Seven weeks later, United says about 2,000 workers, less than 3% of the US workforce, have applied for religious or medical housing. Those workers were placed on unpaid leave on October 2, but the airline has postponed that date while a federal lawsuit challenging that policy makes its way through the courts.

United says 593 employees have not been vaccinated and have not applied for a waiver.

“For the less than 1% of people who decide not to get vaccinated, we will unfortunately begin the process of separation from the airline as per our policy,” Kirby and Hart told employees in the memo.

Their letter thanks “the tens of thousands of employees who got the chance,” adding, “We know this decision for some has been reluctant. But there is no doubt in our minds that some of you will avoid future hospital stays — or even death — because you have been vaccinated.”

United announced it will require employees to get a COVID-19 vaccine on August 6, weeks before President Biden’s blanket mandate for the vaccine. Hawaiian and Frontier Airlines are also requiring that employees be vaccinated.

Delta Air Lines has not mandated vaccinations, but it announced in August that it would begin charging unvaccinated employees an additional $200 per month health insurance fee.

Since then, Biden has ordered all US companies with more than 100 workers to vaccinate or frequently test employees for the coronavirus. But pilot unions in Southwest and American Airlines are calling on the White House to exempt the pilots from the mandate.

The Allied Pilots Association says about 30% of the 14,000 American pilots never get their shots, and warns that layoffs for unvaccinated pilots could lead to a severe pilot shortage during the busy holiday season in November and December.

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