United Airlines to offer pilots and flight attendants bonuses if they get a COVID-19 vaccination

Photo (c) Ralf-Finn Hestoft - Getty Images

The plan is purely voluntary, but union officials feel that it adds another layer to the health and safety of its passengers

To make sure it’s got every angle of health safety covered, United Airlines is adding a bonus to the paychecks of pilots and flight attendants who have received their COVID-19 vaccination.

United is the first major U.S. carrier to offer such an incentive, but Delta recently made it a requirement for all new employees to prove they’ve been vaccinated.

Under the agreement the union and airline came to in a special meeting on Wednesday, United flight attendants who have received their vaccine by June 9 will get up to three additional days (a total of nine hours and forty-five minutes) off in their upcoming 2022 vacation day bank. 

Getting vaccinated is purely voluntary, but both the Association of Flight Attendants union (AFA) and the airline say they have a shared priority in getting as many flight attendants vaccinated as quickly as possible for a number of reasons. 

“First and foremost, the vaccine provides an additional layer of protection in addition to mask compliance and cleaning process initiatives,” AFA said in a blog post.

Some countries may require vaccination

The AFA left in a “what if” scenario in the agreement -- one aimed to address a situation in which a country might require flight attendants to be vaccinated.

“It is anticipated, without advance notice, some countries may begin to require flight crews to be vaccinated. In the event a vaccination requirement was to come about, any Flight Attendant not vaccinated and/or who has not provided documentation to substantiate the vaccination to United would be ineligible to work any flight to a destination in a country where a vaccination requirement exists,” the union said.

United pilots will receive something similar to flight attendants. Those who show proof of vaccination before June 10 will get 12 hours of pay and 11 hours of pay after that through June 30, when the incentive ends.

Roughly 80% of United’s estimated 12,500 pilots have been vaccinated, according to a company spokeswoman.

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