United Airlines lays off hundreds of workers for refusing to get vaccinated

Photo (c) Roman Tiraspolsky - Getty Images

Other airlines have a slightly softer stance on vaccination -- at least for now

In the push-come-to-shove over vaccination mandates, United Airlines did what it said it would do. On Tuesday, it laid its unvaccinated workers off.

All told, 600 employees were affected -- about 1% of United’s workforce. The other 99% provided proof of vaccination prior to a Monday deadline. The airline is offering the non-compliant workers one last chance to comply with the mandate or face full termination. A separate 3% of the company’s 67,000 employees sought a medical or religious exemption.

“This was an incredibly difficult decision but keeping our team safe has always been our first priority,” United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby and President Brett Hart wrote in a memo to employees on Tuesday. “Our rationale for requiring the vaccine for all United’s U.S.-based employees was simple — to keep our people safe — and the truth is this: everyone is safer when everyone is vaccinated, and vaccine requirements work.”

The company said the mandate has created a spike in job applications from people who supposedly are vaccinated and want to work in an environment with like-minded people.

Will the other airlines join United?

So far, United is the only major U.S. airline to go as far as firing employees who refuse to abide by a vaccine requirement. Others appear to be taking a softer stance. American and Southwest are simply encouraging employees to get their shot, and Delta Air Lines laid down a levy of $200 for every month its unvaccinated employees didn’t meet the requirement. Southwest is also offering an enticement of two days' pay to workers who show proof of being fully vaccinated by Nov. 15.

As of late last week, the Washington Post reported that vaccination mandates with some other domestic airlines looked like this:

Alaska Airlines: The latest report says 75% of Alaska’s employees are vaccinated. Unvaccinated workers are not eligible for any special coronavirus-related pay if they become exposed or if an infection prevents them from reporting to work. Those people will also have to take part in a vaccine education program. 

Frontier Airlines: Frontier employees have until Oct. 1 to get vaccinated. If they don’t, they’ll be required to show proof of a negative test.

Hawaiian Airlines: The airline’s U.S.-based employees have until Nov. 1 to show proof of vaccination. Those who got the green light for a medical or religious exemption will be required to have regular tests.

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