US airlines and White House say vaccine mandate will not affect vacation travel

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Passengers check in for a Southwest Airlines flight at Orlando International Airport in Orlando, Florida, USA, on October 11, 2021. REUTERS / Joe Skipper / Files

WASHINGTON / CHICAGO, Oct 21 (Reuters) – Two major US airlines and the White House have said they do not believe the Biden administration’s executive order requiring federal contractors to require employee vaccination on December 8 will affect vacation travel or cause employee departure.

American Airlines (AAL.O) and Southwest Airlines (LUV.N) announced earlier this month that they would fulfill the mandate to vaccinate employees on Dec. 8 unless they receive a religious or medical exemption.

Some airlines and industry observers had initially feared an exodus of unvaccinated airline or government employees who took part in trips just before the Christmas season, but later airlines said this would not happen and they cited comments from the White House this week.

Southwest Airlines chief executive Gary Kelly said on Thursday: “We are not in a campaign here to force everyone to get vaccinated … We want our employees to know that no one will lose their job on December 9 if not we are in perfect compliance. “

He added: “We will not fire anyone who is not vaccinated.” He said the vaccination problem will not affect travel.

White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients told reporters Wednesday that vaccine requirements for federal employees and contractors would not affect vacation travel.

“Vaccination requirements will not affect vacation travel,” Zients said.

Some lawmakers, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, have expressed concern about the impact on the Transportation and Travel Security Administration.

“The requirements for federal workers and contractors will not cause disruptions to the government services on which people depend. Agencies have the flexibility to enforce the mandate without affecting critical operations,” Zients said.

Zients added, “The point here is to vaccinate people, not punish them. Thus, agencies will not withdraw employees from the federal service until they have gone through a process of education and counseling.”

American Airlines CEO Doug Parker said Thursday in a earnings call that he does not expect any employees to leave as a result of the vaccination mandate.

“We think we won’t see anyone leave the United States. I don’t think anyone will want to leave him because he doesn’t decide to get vaccinated or has no religion or medicine (exemption),” Parker said. dit.

Parker said the airline is “very confident” that it will have everyone it needs to make the vacation schedule, even if some unvaccinated employees with approved exemptions face new testing requirements.

“We don’t anticipate any operational impact,” Parker said.

The Cargo Airline Association, a group representing FedEx Corp (FDX.N), United Parcel Service Inc (UPS.N) and other carriers, said Monday in a letter to the White House that “it will be virtually impossible to have 100% of our respective workforces vaccinated on December 8 … If you enter this date in the first half of 2022, the members of the association will be able to meet the demands of the e-commerce revolution during the holiday season. “

The letter, seen by Reuters, was previously unreported.

FedEx told Reuters on Thursday that it “is related to relevant government agencies” in the guidelines.

Report by David Shepardson in Washington and Rajesh Kumar Singh in Chicago Matthew Lewis Edition

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