While United Airlines announced today that all employees would be required to vaccinated, American Airlines CEO Doug Parker took the opposite approach, stating his airline would stick to incentivizing employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
American Airlines Will Not Make COVID-19 Vaccination Mandatory According to CEO Doug Parker
Speaking to Kara Swisher of the New York Times, Parker was asked if he would mandate all employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19. He responded:
What we’re doing there, and what we’ve been doing from the start, is putting great incentives in for our employees to be vaccinated. Anyone who is vaccinated by August 31 at American Airlines gets one day of extra vacation in 2022. They get a $50 gift card. And that, we think, is the right way to motivate people to get vaccinated, and we’re pushing that really hard.
So that’s how we intend to do this. We certainly encourage it everywhere we can, encourage it for our customers and our employees, but we’re not putting mandates in place.
His answer marks a very clear difference between American Airlines and United Airlines, run by his former colleague and protege Scott Kirby.
While United is not planning on forcing passengers to be vaccinated in order to fly, it has made COVID-19 vaccines mandatory for all employees in the USA. American Airlines is taking a different approach, instead trying to motivate employees to be vaccinated through a $50 gift card and extra day of vacation next year.
(United is also incentivizing employees with an arguably more lucrative extra day of pay for those who submit proof of vaccination ahead of the deadline)
Is this a better or worse approach to COVID-19 vaccine?
Both American and United want all of their employees to be vaccinated. What’s interesting to me is that while vaccinations have been widely available for months in the United States, roughly 20% of flight attendants and 10% of pilots have not been vaccinated (a number I would imagine is similar at American Airlines).
Now that the two carriers are taking an opposite approach to COVID-19 vaccinations, I will be interested to see if American can catch United over time or whether making it voluntary will always result in a sizable holdout.
American Airlines and United Airlines have taken different paths, thus far, in trying to promote vaccination amongst employees. While United is now forcing it, American Airlines is leaving the choice to employees…for now.
image: Doug Parker / Instagram