At an employee town hall on Thursday, United Airlines’ CEO Scott Kirby became the first major airline executive to call for Covid-19 vaccines to be required for all company employees. While this statement surely raised many eyebrows in the airline industry and beyond, the controversial requirement is being seen as an aggressive and forward-thinking way to get airlines back on the road to financial health.
Kirby, in a statement released by the company said, “….I have confidence in the safety of the vaccine – and I recognize it’s controversial – I think the right thing to do is for United Airlines, and for other companies, to require vaccines and to make them mandatory”. Kirby also commented: “The worst thing that I believe I will ever do in my career are the letters that I have written to the surviving family of coworkers that we have lost to the coronavirus”.
Other airlines including Southwest, American and Delta have said that they do not require the vaccination, but that doing so is strongly encouraged. American went further to say that they do not anticipate mandating employee innoculation, except in the case of it being required for flight crew members to enter certain destinations.
United’s Kirby was quick to acknowledge that United can not go it alone with such a policy, but he was open about asking other companies including airlines and healthcare providers, to follow its lead in requiring employees to receive the vaccine.
Air travel worldwide has been decimated for almost a year due to Covid-19, with many countries shutting down international travel altogether. As the pandemic has persisted, various concepts to deal with it have been tried including requiring a quarantine for up to two weeks upon arrival. More recent plans call for proof of a negative test result within three days of departure, or proof of having had, and recovered from Covid in the last three months.
As vaccinations ramp up worldwide in the coming months, the world’s airlines, hotels, and tourism infrastructures desperately need people to be able to travel safely again. Business travel is expected to lag the eventual return of leisure travel, and vacationers can expect to find very attractive airfares and room rates for the summer travel season and beyond.