Starting Next Month, United Will Become the First Fully-Vaccinated Airline (Sort Of)

Plus, Delta's $200 surcharge gamble is paying off

United Airlines And American Airlines Warns Of Furloughs As Travel Remains Devastated From Pandemic
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In August, United announced that it was giving all of its employees the choice to be fully vaccinated or wear a mask while working and undergo routine COVID-19 testing. The deadline given was October 1, 2021, or at least five weeks from when any of the available approved vaccines were given the full green light.

Now, a month later, the major U.S. airline has some follow-up information that is sure to stir the pot.

Starting Oct. 2, 2021, all operational customer-facing employees will be required to be fully vaccinated—full stop. Employees who meet these criteria which are not fully vaccinated by the deadline will no longer be considered employed. This hardline approach shows the airline has made a clear stance: to work with customers, you need to be vaccinated. Behind-the-scenes and non-customer-facing employees can still opt to wear masks and get frequent tests instead of getting the vaccine.

There are, of course, exceptions.

United employees who filed medical or religious exemptions from getting the vaccine reportedly received a memo from the company stating they would be placed on unpaid temporary leave once United's vaccine mandate goes into effect. The memo also states that these employees on medical or religious leave will be “welcomed back to the team on active status” as soon as the “pandemic meaningfully recedes.” When the pandemic reaches this point is, unfortunately, anybody’s guess.

Also, last month, Delta Airlines announced that it would require that all new hires be fully vaccinated. A few weeks later, this small start turned into a larger dance when the airline said it would begin doling out monthly health insurance surcharges at $200 a pop for all unvaccinated workers, starting Nov. 1, 2021. This decision was met with mixed reviews, including folks who believed Delta would lose several employees who didn't want to pay the new fee.

The funny thing is, Delta says they haven't experienced any employee turnover because of the surcharge. In fact, the whole incentive seems to be working. When Delta first announced just two weeks ago, roughly 25 percent of its 80,0000 employees were unvaccinated. The company says that 20 percent of its unvaccinated employees have now been vaccinated in the last two weeks.

During the Infectious Disease Society of America briefing on Thursday, Sept. 9, where Delta’s chief health officer, Harry Ting, shared the successful stats around Delta's health insurance surcharge incentive, he also made sure to note that the four percent uptick in employee vaccinations is nothing to scoff at, especially considering the jabs are within the “group that’s most reluctant” to getting vaccinated.

So far, the consensus from the public on United’s move to put excused non-vaccinated employees on leave and terminate others is getting mixed reviews. While some believe it to be a violation of choice, others are pledging their allegiance to the airline, vowing to only fly with United starting in November for helping to keep passengers and crew safe.