The White House lobbies airlines to vaccinate their employees | Economic news
By DAVID KOENIG, Editor of AP Airlines
Alaska Airlines and JetBlue join United Airlines in demanding that employees be vaccinated against COVID-19, just as the Biden administration is stepping up pressure on major U.S. carriers to demand the vaccines.
White House coronavirus adviser Jeffrey Zients has spoken to CEOs of American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and Southwest Airlines about the vaccination warrants, according to three people familiar with the situation. They spoke on Friday on condition of anonymity as the calls were private.
Airlines are large employers who come under President Joe Biden’s blanket order that companies with more than 100 workers require their employees to be vaccinated or undergo weekly tests for the virus.
They are also government contractors and could therefore fall under the December 8 deadline for contractors to enforce vaccination requirements – without the option of testing.
Alaska Airlines and JetBlue Airways said on Friday they would require employees to be vaccinated as early as Dec. 8 because they will be treated as federal contractors.
“This means that employees can no longer opt for regular testing and masking instead of getting the vaccine,” Alaska Airlines said in a note to employees.
Delta said he is still evaluating Biden’s order. The airline had previously said it would require vaccination or weekly testing and impose supplements on unvaccinated employees. This would meet the Biden test for large employers, but not the stricter rules for federal contractors.
United Airlines has taken an early and firm position to demand vaccination. United said Thursday that 320 of its 67,000 U.S. employees were at risk of being made redundant for not getting the vaccine or seeking medical or religious exemption by a deadline earlier this week.
American and Southwest say they’re looking into Biden’s order. Both are under pressure from their pilot groups not to demand vaccinations but rather to offer options, including testing.
The White House adviser’s calls with airline CEOs were reported earlier by Reuters.
At least two members of Congress – Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., And Representative Don Beyer, D-Va. – proposed requiring passengers on domestic flights to be vaccinated or show evidence of a negative test for COVID-19 before boarding the plane.
Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, supports this approach for domestic flights, and travelers entering the country must test negative before boarding. The Biden administration has not ruled out the idea, which airlines strongly oppose.
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