- American, Southwest, JetBlue and Alaska Airlines have told employees over the past week that they should be vaccinated against COVID-19 under the Biden administration’s federal contractor rules.
- Regional carriers that fly shorter routes for airlines say they are reviewing new rules for federal employees.
- United Airlines implemented a vaccine mandate in August and said more than 96% of its employees have been vaccinated.
Major US airlines are increasingly making COVID-19 vaccines mandatory for employees. Some regional carriers that fly under his name – at least not yet.
Larger airlines such as United, American and Delta contract smaller carriers to operate some of the shorter routes in their networks, with tickets sold on the larger carrier’s website and other platforms. Some of these smaller airlines are wholly owned subsidiaries such as American Envoy and Delta’s Endeavor Air, while others such as SkyWest and Mesa Air Group are independent.
Representatives for Mesa, Envoy, SkyWest and United contractor CommuteAir said they have not yet issued requirements for employees, but are evaluating whether federal requirements will force them to make vaccines mandatory for employees.
The Biden administration said last month that federal contractors must ensure their employees have been vaccinated against Covid by December 8. President Joe Biden also said that companies with more than 100 employees must implement a vaccine mandate for all employees, or regularly test those who are not. Regional carriers will at least fit into the second category.
“It’s somewhat questionable,” said Jonathan Ornstein, CEO of Mesa Air Group, which flies for American and United. What will be required of regional airlines. Officials at the Phoenix-based airline are waiting for more clarity on the rules from federal officials, lawyers and airline customers, but the carrier will abide by the federal mandate, he said.
Ornstein said he worries about potentially losing workers if the company of more than 3,000 employees mandates vaccination of employees without a federal mandate that would require competitors to do so.
“I worry if in the hypothetical we were to make vaccinations mandatory and there were other job opportunities that didn’t mandate vaccines [some employees] Will leave,” he said.
American, Alaska, JetBlue and Southwest each told employees last week that they must be vaccinated in order to comply with federal contractor rules. Previously, those airlines encouraged employees to vaccinate but were not required to. United implemented its own vaccine mandate in August and says more than 96% of its 67,000 US employees have been vaccinated since last week’s deadline. The Chicago-based airline said it encouraged its contractors to make vaccines mandatory as well.
Those large airlines are federal contractors, providing services such as cargo flights or tickets for government employees, among other services. Southwest does not use third-party regional airlines.
Regional airlines operate some of those flights under the City Pairs program, which sets fares for federal workers to about 12,000 markets. For example, a search for a Delta flight from Lehigh Valley International Airport to Detroit showed an option operated by Endeavor Air. California Redwood Coast – A United flight from Humboldt County Airport to Los Angeles featured one operated by SkyWest. The US General Services Administration, which manages the Citi Pair Program, did not respond to a request for comment.
A recent daily schedule showed that 54% of United’s more than 4,000 departures were operated by regional, with 40% of Delta’s 4,100 flights a day operated by regional carriers that flew for Delta Connection and that they operated 52% of flights on American’s schedule. , although volume fluctuates. Their share of total capacity could be lower — just under 15% for United last year — as mainline carriers operate longer flights.
Henry Hartvelt, founder of the travel-industry consulting firm Atmosphere Research Group, said, “A significant mass of US airline flights are operated by third parties, who have their own standards and their own ways of doing business, including how they vaccinate. “
Atlanta-based Delta does not currently mandate vaccines for its workforce of about 80,000. It says that more than 80% of them have been vaccinated. In November, it will begin charging non-vaccinated employees an additional $200 per month for the company’s health insurance. The surcharge does not apply to Endeavor.
American Airlines late Wednesday asked its 100,000-person employees to upload proof of vaccinations by November 24, and failing to do so “will result in dismissal from the company.”
This only applies to its core airline employees, not its regional carriers. Envoy, one of those carriers, said it is still reviewing the guidelines.
It is unclear how many employees of regional airlines have been vaccinated, but Hartevelt said they wait “as much as scrambling” to comply with a mandate.
United laid the groundwork for its vaccine mandate for months before the announcement. It also worked with unions to set up vaccine incentives, ensuring they had access to shots and policies for those who needed medical exemptions.
“United worked very cooperatively with their unions, but it was a month-long process,” Hartvelt said. “It was not an hourlong Zoom call.”