Having recently returned from a vacation to Iceland, this story grabbed my attention this week. United Airlines has set an absolute deadline of Monday, October 4, for all domestic employees to provide proof of vaccination for the Covid-19 virus. And starting the next day, the carrier will begin the process of firing 593 employees who so far haven’t provided that documentation.
I heartily applaud United’s firm stand and hope to see all airlines eventually follow their lead. While Delta Air Lines, who I flew from Minneapolis/St. Paul to Reykjavik earlier this month has chosen a different route of increasing health insurance premiums for unvaccinated employees by $200 monthly, I think a much more serious impression is made by firing staff who refuse to comply.
And why not? All passengers en route to Iceland were required to show proof of vaccination and a negative Covid test taken no more than 72 hours prior to departure. Additionally, in order to come home, everyone had to provide proof of a negative PCR test for Covid that was administered in Iceland, again, no earlier than three days before the flight departed. No one complained, no one said you’re taking away my freedom, and no one became disruptive inflight.
Let me tell you, there is a real feeling of comfort and safety knowing that every passenger on both flights was Covid-free, so why shouldn’t the airline’s employees be, too? From pilots to cabin crew, mechanics, gate agents and front of terminal check-in staff, everyone should be required to prove that they are not carrying this deadly virus with them to work, or back home to their family and friends.
With the exception of about 3% of United’s staff who have sought a religious or medical exemption from the policy, more than 99% of the Chicago-based carrier’s workforce has been vaccinated. United’s plan to place those requesting a religious exemption on unpaid personal leave has been pushed back to October 15, as the plan is being challenged in court.
United said that it anticipates hiring 25,000 people in the coming years to join the 67,000 employees already working for the airline. Applications for current job postings are far outpacing