CEO Scott Kirby told CNN that about 90% of the company’s employees have shown proof of their vaccination to the airline. He believes most of the others received the vaccine but simply failed to upload their checks. And so far, very few employees have quit rather than get vaccinated, he added.
“In a big company, it’s a handful,” he said Thursday during an appearance on CNN. “The ones I’m aware of are in the single digit number of people. We’ll have more by the end, but it will be a very small number of people.”
Kirby said it was important to get as many people vaccinated as possible in order to end the pandemic and get the economy – and air travel – back to full functionality again. But while travel between certain countries requires proof of vaccination, Kirby does not approve a vaccination warrant on domestic air travel or other forms of transportation.
“I do not think so [mandating vaccination for] air travel alone will lead to a huge increase in vaccination rates, ”he said. “I think that this employer’s mandate will lead to a very strong increase. “
Kirby said the administration’s policy of requiring a vaccine or employer’s test warrants “is probably the most effective way, as opposed to creating friction at airports, friction in subways, friction at all levels”.
Airlines have insisted that federal rules requiring passengers to wear masks, improved air filtration, and frequent exchange of fresh air for cabin air during flights make flights safe even during the pandemic.
United and other US airlines have benefited from a strong summer, with leisure travelers filling the planes. The rise of the Delta variant and the delay in reopening many offices have slowed the return of business travel that airlines were hoping to see this fall. A vaccine requirement for domestic air travel could prevent some additional customers from traveling on planes.
About 20,000 United employees have provided proof of vaccination to the company since the policy was announced on August 6, according to a memo sent to United employees Thursday. Workers who upload their proof of vaccination before September 20 will be entitled to an additional day’s pay.
United employees have until September 27 to comply with the mandate or risk being put on leave. Other airlines have not followed suit with their own vaccine mandates, although Delta (DAL)
announced that those who do not get vaccinated will have to pay more for their medical insurance and will not be entitled to as much paid sick leave if they fall with Covid.
A Goldman Sachs projection this week estimates that the policy of the Biden administration, which also requires vaccines for most healthcare workers, federal employees and contractors and some preschool workers, will lead to an additional 12 million adults to receive the vaccine. This is about half of the 25 million unvaccinated workers covered by the rule.
Contrary to federal policy announced last week, United does not allow workers who do not want to be vaccinated to avoid it through weekly Covid tests.
But United employees can request a medical or religious exemption from the rules. Anyone whose request for religious exemption is accepted by the company will be placed on unpaid leave, while those whose medical reasons accepted for not being vaccinated will be placed on medical leave, which may or may not include remuneration, according to their union contract.