WASHINGTON/CHICAGO, Oct 21 (Reuters) - Two major U.S.
airlines and the White House said they do not think the Biden
administration's executive order mandating federal contractors
require employee vaccinations by Dec. 8 will impact holiday
travel or result in employees leaving.
American Airlines and Southwest Airlines
announced earlier this month they would comply https://www.reuters.com/business/aerospace-defense/southwest-airlines-comply-with-biden-vaccine-mandate-by-dec-8-2021-10-04
with the mandate that employees be vaccinated by Dec. 8 unless
they receive a religious or medical exemption.
Some airlines and industry-watchers had initially feared an
exodus of unvaccinated airline or government employees involved
in travel just before the Christmas season but airlines later
said that would not happen and cited comments from the White
House this week.
Southwest Airlines Chief Executive Gary Kelly said on
Thursday: "We are not on a campaign here to force everybody to
get vaccinated ... We want our employees to know that nobody is
going to lose their job on December 9 if we're not perfectly in
He added: "We're not going to fire anybody who doesn't get
vaccinated." He said the vaccination issue will not disrupt
White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients on Wednesday
told reporters https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/press-briefings/2021/10/20/press-briefing-by-white-house-covid-19-response-team-and-public-health-officials-62
the vaccine requirements for federal employees and federal
contractors would not impact holiday travel.
"Vaccination requirements will not impact holiday travel,"
Some lawmakers including Senate Majority Leader Chuck
Schumer have raised concerns about the impact on the
Transportation Security Administration and travel.
"The requirements for federal workers and contractors will
not cause disruptions to government services that people depend
on. Agencies have the flexibility necessary to enforce the
mandate without impacting critical operations," Zients said.
Zients added, "the point here is to get people vaccinated,
not to punish them. So agencies will not be removing employees
from federal service until after they've gone through a process
of education and counseling."
American Airlines Chief Executive Doug Parker said on an
earnings call on Thursday he does not expect any employees to
leave as a result of the vaccine mandate.
"We think we're not going to see anyone leaving American. I
don't think anyone's going to want to leave American because
either they choose not to get vaccinated or they don't have a
religious or medical (exemption)," Parker said.
Parker said the airline is "highly confident" it will have
everyone needed to fly its holiday schedule even if some
unvaccinated employees with approved exemptions face new testing
"We don't anticipate any operational impact," Parker said.
The Cargo Airline Association, a group representing FedEx
Corp, United Parcel Service Inc and other cargo
carriers, said in letter to the White House on Monday that "it
will be virtually impossible to have 100% of our respective work
forces vaccinated by Dec. 8 ... Sliding this date into the first
half of 2022 will allow association members to meet the demands
of the e-commerce revolution during the holiday season."
The letter, seen by Reuters, was previously unreported.
FedEx told Reuters on Thursday it is "engaged with the
relevant government agencies" on the guidelines.
(Reporting by David Shepardson in Washington and Rajesh Kumar
Singh in Chicago
Editing by Matthew Lewis)