United Will Soon Require Employees to Be Vaccinated—or Undergo Regular Testing

All 67,000 of the airline's employees need to be fully vaccinated by the fall

United Airlines flight attendants

Courtesy of United Airlines

On Friday, Aug. 6, 2021, United Airlines became the first major U.S. airline to announce that it would begin mandating COVID-19 vaccines for its employees. The announcement comes nearly 18 months since SARS-CoV-2 was officially declared a pandemic and approximately nine months since U.S. vaccines were granted emergency use status by the FDA.

Vaccine mandates are increasingly becoming the norm—Los Angeles, which has been both the most and least infected county in the United States, recently announced that anyone in the medical field will be required to be vaccinated (or receive regular testing); New York City announced that anyone hoping to enter indoor venues such as concert halls, music venues, restaurants, and bars, will need to show proof of receiving at least one shot. Dr. Fauci has even warned U.S. citizens to expect a wave of vaccine mandates once the jabs receive full FDA approval.

United Airlines may be the first major airline to step up to the plate when it comes to requiring all employees to get a full COVID-19 vaccination to work, but it’s not the first large company to implement such a rule. Other large corporations requiring employee vaccinations include Facebook, Google, Netflix, Lyft, Uber, and Wal-Mart.

Actually, if we’re looking closely enough, United isn’t the first airline to state that it will require employees to be fully vaccinated. Back in May, Delta Air Lines announced that all new hires would be required to be inoculated against COVID-19, effective May 17, 2021 (keywords: new hires)—a move that United echoed in the following weeks.

From the other side of the fence, American Airlines CEO Doug Parker has reportedly stated that he has no intention now—or ever—to require American Airlines employees to be vaccinated.

United’s vaccine mandate is slated to come into effect by Oct. 1, 2021, or at least five weeks after any of the current available U.S. vaccines are given the full green light—whichever comes first. Not getting the vaccine, however, doesn’t mean United employees will be out of a job. They can opt to receive regular COVID-19 testing instead and wear face masks while working.

In a letter to employees, United CEO Scott Kirby and President Brett Hart said, “We know some of you will disagree with this decision to require the vaccine for all United employees. The facts are crystal clear: everyone is safer when everyone is vaccinated.”

Currently, United has roughly 67,000 employees. According to reported internal estimates, the airline has already seen about a 90 percent vaccination rate among its pilots and an 80 percent vaccination rate for its flight attendants. 

Article Sources
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  1. U.S. Food & Drug Administration. "Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine." Aug. 6, 2021

  2. Office of Governor Gavin Newsom. "California Implements First-in-the-Nation Measures to Encourage State Employees and Health Care Workers to Get Vaccinated." July 26, 2021

  3. NYC Health. "New Vaccine Requirements."