White House pressures US airlines to quickly issue vaccines to employees
Washington – White House Presses on the United States Home Airlines Four sources told Reuters on Friday that the release of COVID-19 vaccines to employees by Dec. 8 — the deadline for federal contractors to do so — shows no signs of a delay.
Jeffrey Zentes, the White House COVID-19 response coordinator, spoke to the CEOs of American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and Southwest Airlines Thursday to make sure they are working quickly to develop and enforce vaccine requirements before that deadline, sources said, who I spoke on condition. From anonymity.
Large US airlines have a number of federal contracts. President Joe Biden signed an executive order last month requiring federal contractors to authorize COVID-19 footage to employees, with the White House last week setting a December 8 deadline for completing vaccinations.
American Airlines said Friday night that more than 100,000 employees in the United States will need to be vaccinated, but it did not specify when compliance. It added that employees will be able to obtain religious or health exemptions from vaccination.
“While we are still working through the details of federal requirements, it is clear that team members who choose not to be vaccinated will not be able to work for American Airlines,” CEO Doug Parker and President Robert Isom said in a note. “We understand that this federal mandate can be difficult, but it is what is required of our company, and we will comply.”
Some airline officials had asked the White House to delay the requirements, which Biden signed last month, until after the busy holiday travel season.
Zenitz urged airlines to “work sooner rather than later to ensure the implementation process is as smooth as possible,” one source said, and made clear that the White House had no intention of relaxing the deadline. Zients also urged them to consider United Airlines’ vaccine requirements announced in August.
The three airlines separately confirmed the calls had been made but declined to discuss details. Zenitz did not respond to a request for comment on the calls, which were first reported by Reuters.
“Employers must act now to protect their workforce,” Zenitz said at a news briefing on Friday without directly discussing the airlines. “More and more companies are moving forward to make vaccine requirements the standard across all sectors.”
The Civilian Reserve Fleet Air (CRAF) is among the federal contracts of major US airlines. The reserve fleet was activated in August to support the Pentagon, as airlines helped transport evacuees from Afghanistan.
Sources told Reuters that the Biden administration told airlines on Thursday that it would seek to amend CRAF’s contracts to vaccinate its employees. Other government agencies are also expected to seek amendments to contracts with airlines.
Labor shortage concerns
The Allied Pilots Association, which represents 14,000 pilots who fly for American Airlines, said last week that “mandatory vaccinations could lead to labor shortages and create serious operational problems for American Airlines and its peers.” Some employees at many US companies have resigned rather than comply with vaccination instructions.
Two smaller airlines said earlier on Friday that they would comply with the vaccine mandate for federal contractors. JetBlue Airways said it had “notified our crew of this vaccination”.
Alaska Airlines said it would comply with the federal contractor’s vaccine requirements, saying it believed it and other major US airlines were covered by the executive order.
Alaska Airlines said this “means that all of our employees, including some contractors and vendors, will be required to fully vaccinate, or agree to provide reasonable accommodations such as medical conditions or religious beliefs that prevent them from being vaccinated.”
“The government has not confirmed when employees should be fully vaccinated, but it could be as early as December 8,” she added.
The Federal Acquisition Regulatory Board, which provides guidance to US agencies on contracts and procurement, issued a memo Thursday about including a provision in their orders and contracts for vaccines. Sources said it was expected to issue guidance on the waivers on Oct. 8.
Separately, the Department of Labor will issue an emergency order covering more than 80 million private sector employees to order either regular COVID-19 testing or vaccinations. This is expected this month.
Delta said Friday that 84% of its employees have been vaccinated and is continuing to “evaluate the management plan.” Southwest said it “continues to strongly encourage employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.”
United Airlines said 99.5% of its US-based employees have been vaccinated, excluding those who sought an exemption. The carrier said only 320 employees in the United States are not complying with its vaccination policy.
United, which in August became the first US airline to order vaccinations for all local employees, has asked employees to provide proof of vaccination by Monday or face termination.