Southwest Airlines has told all employees they must be vaccinated against COVID-19 by early December or request an exemption. Southwest now becomes the latest U.S. airline to compel the jab after a Biden Administration mandate for federal contractors.
COVID-19 Vaccine Requirement At Southwest Airlines
Southwest Airlines Chairman and CEO Gary Kelly told employees:
“Southwest Airlines must join our industry peers in complying with the federal government’s COVID-19 vaccination directive. I encourage all Southwest Employees to meet the federal directive, as quickly as possible, since we value every individual and want to ensure job security for all.”
The tacit threat is a reminder that the Southwest Airlines pilots union, like the union representing American Airlines pilots, has steadfastly opposed mandatory vaccines.
Exemptions for sincerely-held religious beliefs and medical reasons will be offered. Employees must first apply for them and each request will be weighed on an individual basis.
Employees now have until November 24, 2021 at noon CT to submit proof of vaccination according to Steve Goldberg, Southwest’s Senior Vice President of Operations and Hospitality. At that time, employees must be fully vaccinated, meaning two weeks have elapsed since their second shot (or single J&J shot). That timeline forces unvaccinated employees to act immediately if they wish to have a Modern or Pfizer vaccine.
Southwest Airlines join Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, and JetBlue in requiring employees to be vaccinated. While United Airlines required vaccines before a federal mandate was in place, those three airlines held off until last week in requiring the vaccine. For now, only Delta Air Lines remains a holdout.
Southwest Airlines joins the long list of U.S. airlines requiring employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Employees who are not vaccinated must ask quickly, as the deadline is right around the corner. Delta now remains the last major U.S. airlines not to have instituted a vaccine requirement, though Delta has not ruled it out, saying it is reviewing the (as yet unpublished) order.