United Airlines had already become the first United States-based airline to require all of those employees to be vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus, but it has now added a specific timeline to that, per memos that company officials circulated on Wednesday. Most who do not get vaccinated will be fired or need to go on leave as early as Oct. 2. However, the organization added that customers should expect no disruptions to its flight schedule this fall or at any point during the upcoming holiday season.
Airline officials said that with few exceptions, United employees who simply refuse to get vaccinated will no longer be able to work for the company on Oct. 2.
Employees who do not want to get a vaccine for health-related reasons and those reasons are approved by United will go on paid leave while those who refuse vaccination for religiously based and approved reasons will go on unpaid leave. Individuals in the latter group will also no longer receive medical insurance unless they pay for COBRA’s full premium on their own, but they will see no change to their seniority within the company.
Those who receive approved exceptions and regularly interact with passengers – e.g. flight attendants and gate agents – should not expect to return to work for United for a while, until the pandemic “meaningfully recedes.” Those who do not – e.g. mechanics, baggage handlers and headquarters employees – will be put back to work sooner but not until United finalizes related safety measures.
Employees who have made a bid for an exemption and had it be denied by the airline will receive five weeks from the moment that request is denied to get vaccinated. The first shot must be received by Sept. 27.
More than 50% of previously unvaccinated employees have gotten themselves vaccinated since United initially announced in August that its employees must be vaccinated this fall.
United is not the only airline to put pressure on its employees to get vaccinated. Another is Delta Air Lines. Employees with the latter organization will need to pay $200 into their health plans every month in order to cover possible COVID-19-related expenses that they may incur in the future. Those employees will also need to take a COVID-19 test on a weekly basis and wear a mask while working indoors.