Could the impending employee vaccine mandate deadline make things even more challenging during the coming holiday travel season?
A critical time frame for airlines to comply White House Mandate 24 is coming up for employees of federal contractors – the busy travel day that is the day before Thanksgiving. (The actual deadline is December 8, but airlines set a date two weeks in advance that workers are not fully vaccinated until two weeks after their last shot.)
There is high-profile resistance to the mandate at some big airlines, including Southwest and American, with only a month left. Additionally, there is uncertainty about what happens to those who refuse vaccination or are granted religious or medical exemptions. Will employees who haven’t been fully vaccinated be let go (say American and Southwest) or are required to undergo regular COVID-19 testing? If large groups of employees are not vaccinated by the deadline then either option will affect already fewer employees.
‘Dangerous situations’:Unions warn pilots to focus on flying, not federal vaccine mandate
Come explore with us:Subscribe to our travel newsletter
“This can be problematic,” said Stathis Kefflonitis, associate professor of aviation business and passenger intelligence in Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s College of Business. I’m not sure airlines have the necessary backup staff that they need to replace those. Is. ”
Scott Kirby, CEO of United Airlines, whose company implemented a vaccine mandate a month before the federal mandate and more than 97% of its U.S. employees were fully vaccinated and the rest were exempt or let go, “Warning Emptor” (buyer beware) for travelers booking holiday tickets on airlines with “wish-deception” vaccine mandate policies.
Kirby called for possible repercussions for some airlines Least-Strong Mandate Policies “Greatest Incremental Risk” in AviationDuring Wednesday’s earnings call. He did not name the airlines.
Will my Thanksgiving and Christmas flights be affected by the vaccine mandate?
The CEOs of Southwest and American strongly disagree that travel troubles lie ahead because of the mandate.
“We won’t let this disrupt any of our customers’ travel, especially during the busy holiday season,” Southwest CEO Gary Kelly said on the airline’s earnings call Thursday.
He said the airline is using its “best efforts” to make the deadline and has not asked the government for an extension. Southwest has not disclosed the percentage of its employees who are unvaccinated.
Kelly only said that most employees have reported their condition and that an “extreme majority” of them have been vaccinated. There is still “a large percentage of workers who have not reported,” he said.
American Airlines CEO Doug Parker said he expects “virtually everyone” in American to be vaccinated by the November 24 deadline.
“We do not anticipate any type of operating impact,” Parker said Thursday on the airline’s earnings conference call. “We have hope for all the people we need.”
According to Dennis Tajer, spokesman for the Allied Pilots Association, about 3,700 of America’s 14,000 pilots have not been vaccinated.
If regular COVID-19 testing isn’t required, Parker said he doesn’t expect it to be “cumbersome.”
United CEO Kirby said on Wednesday that the need for testing for large numbers of workers would “undoubtedly” be difficult for airlines.
“If you think the weather in one state can cause a recession, can you imagine you have thousands of workers a day and say, for some reason my test didn’t pass,” he said.
The White House said it does not expect issues in airlines or the Transportation Security Administration, where a informed of 40% of workers have not been vaccinated before the November 22 deadline for government employees.
“The vaccination requirements will have no impact on leisure travel,” Jeff Gents, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, said at a briefing on Wednesday.
Bob Mann, an airline industry consultant and former airline executive at RW Mann & Co., said the vaccine mandate deadline is bad for airlines and suggested government officials “didn’t mention the calendar.”
He added that airlines regularly do big projects like changing the reservation system outside the peak travel periods to avoid flight hiccups.
“Would you choose to do it during Thanksgiving week? I don’t think so,” he said.
Mann said the mandate deadline is “potentially disruptive” but does not expect a major flight crisis.
“There’s nothing more disruptive than finding out you’ll have Nor’Reester,” he said. “I don’t particularly worry about it.”