In the face of consistently climbing COVID-19 infections due to the highly contagious Delta variant, United Airlines has announced it will require its 68,000 workers to be vaccinated this fall, marking the first such move by a major airline.
“The facts are crystal clear: everyone is safer when everyone is vaccinated,” Chief Executive Scott Kirby and President Brett Hart reportedly wrote in a Friday (Aug. 6) letter to employees. “Over the last 16 months, Scott has sent dozens of condolences letters to the family members of United employees who have died from COVID-19. We’re determined to do everything we can to try to keep another United family from receiving that letter.”
The Rocky Recovery In The Friendly Skies
United’s announcement comes just two weeks after airlines reported Q2 earnings that were promising across the board — with Delta, United, American and Southwest all reporting being at or near a return to profitability thanks to a surge in domestic leisure travel. Reports of soaring COVID-19 figures, however, seems to be putting pressure on that recovery, with Frontier Airlines noting during its earnings call this week that growing case counts have started to dent bookings.
United’s announcement is the latest step by airlines to maintain fragile consumer confidence including:
Since June both United and Delta have required all new hires to be fully vaccinated.
Vaccination rates among airline workers are already high, pre-mandate. United reports 80 to 90 percent of its pilots and flight attendants are already vaccinated, Delta reports a 70 percent vaccination rate among its staff.
United’s vaccine mandate is timed to coincide with the FDA’s full approval of the COVID-19 vaccine this fall when all federal government employees will also be required to get the vaccine.
Consumers want to get back to travel, PYMNTS data show, but safety is critical to their actually doing it.
24 percent of consumers reported intentions to travel more domestically after being vaccinated.
20 percent of consumers increased their domestic travel post pandemic.
See more: Consumers And The New Retail Landscape
The bigger picture: United is just the latest employer embracing vaccine mandates — Google, Facebook, Disney, Walmart (corporate), scores of restaurants and municipalities already have or are about to put mandates in place.