“It gives people a pretty strong incentive, because that’s the way they can get their life back. We think it’s a key to opening not just international borders and aviation, but the economy.”
Scott Kirby, CEO of United Airlines, has reaffirmed the airline’s position on mandatory vaccinations, claiming the practice will become widespread once other companies pick up on it. United’s leadership is looking at vaccinating all of its 60,000-strong workforce, who are considered essential workers.
Last month, CEO Kirby outlined the airline’s intentions to mandate vaccinations in a virtual town hall meeting with employees. However, United doesn’t want to be the only carrier adopting such a policy. Kirby has encouraged other companies to get onboard with compulsory vaccinations, saying,
“I’m realistic enough, while I think it’s the right thing to do, to know United Airlines alone can’t do it and have it stick. There don’t have to be a ton of others, but there have to be others.”
Other airlines, including Delta and American, have shown a reluctance to adopt mandatory vaccines. American has stated it will encourage its employees to get vaccinated but won’t mandate it, while Delta is yet to comment on the issue. Meanwhile, Southwest has pledged to vaccinate all of its employees for free once the jab is widely available, but it won’t be mandatory as of yet.
If airlines do go ahead with mandatory vaccines, they won’t have to negotiate with unions to get it done. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently clarified that employers can require their employees to be vaccinated and issued guidelines for companies to follow.
There are presently very few instances of companies enforcing compulsory vaccinations, but it may not remain that way for long. Companies have been wary of entering an unchartered legal territory, with all sorts of potential legal minefields giving them pause. Much like the practice of wearing masks was met with initial skepticism, Kirby feels the same about mandating vaccines.
“It will just become what is expected and what most companies do. Once the ball gets rolling, it’s going to roll all the way to the bottom.”
United is already preparing to get its workers vaccinated when the time comes, with vaccination centers set up at select airports. In Illinois, flight workers will be eligible to receive the jab as early as next Monday as part of the state’s distribution phase 1b.
Vaccination passports have made the news recently, with countries and airlines increasingly in favor of requiring proof of vaccination before traveling. The European Commission is currently working on a standardized passport system, while British Airways and American Airways are already using VeriFLY for this purpose.
Kirby believes vaccine passports will be crucial in getting life back to normal, not just for travel but in all areas of society,
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