Texas airline pilots warn vaccination warrants could disrupt vacation flights
APA’s proposal and its position: Earlier this month, Biden announced that his administration would require private companies with 100 or more employees to get vaccinated or tested every week.
The APA said some of its members were concerned about compliance due to documented medical reasons as well as the vaccine’s “potential for end-of-career side effects”, citing rigorous FAA medical testing that pilots must succeed to keep their commercial pilot license. Alternative means, Ferguson said, could be regular employee testing or “proof of natural immunity” for unvaccinated pilots who wish to keep their jobs.
But that would mean companies would have to foot the bill for weekly testing. The price of the tests varies widely, from $ 20 to $ 150, depending on the type of test (rapid vs PCR, for example).
United Airlines, Frontier Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines have all mandated vaccines for their workforce and have set strict limits for those who try to avoid getting the vaccine. Delta Air Lines, meanwhile, is adding an extra $ 200 per month to the company’s health care plan for its unvaccinated workers.
At United, at least, the tenure seems to be having an effect. Last week, the airline said more than 97% of its 67,000 employees are now vaccinated as a result of its blue chip corporate mandate.
Airlines without warrants: So far, American has only encouraged its employees to get vaccinated, offering days off and extra pay. It has stopped offering wage protections as part of its pandemic leave policy to those who contract Covid when they are not vaccinated.
Like the American, Southwest has not yet defined parameters on a vaccine mandate and is awaiting more details from the administration. “We continue to strongly encourage our employees to request and get vaccinated, and to share their immunization status with us,” Southwest told POLITICO earlier this month.
The Southwest Airlines Pilots Association, its pilots union, remains in a contentious relationship with the airline for the time being over a lawsuit involving allegations of unfair labor practices during Covid, but SWAPA members are aligned with the ‘APA on the idea that the vaccine poses an undue side effects that could end a pilot’s career.
“The position of SWAPA is that every pilot has the right to choose whether or not to be vaccinated,” the association said in an email Monday, reflecting the direct language of the APA letter. “We are also concerned that the executive order’s 60-day implementation period for mandatory vaccinations could lead to labor shortages and create serious operational problems for Southwest Airlines and its peers.”
And after: The APA says forcing pilots who insisted during the pandemic out of their jobs poses increased risk to an industry still reeling from Covid and the booming Delta variant.
Ferguson said he hoped the pilots’ contributions would be recognized as the administration considers “our request for approval of another permanent means of compliance and an operationally feasible implementation period.”
The White House did not immediately return a request for comment.