United Airlines moves to fire 232 employees who have refused to get Covid vaccine

United Airlines is terminating the employment of 232 workers who have refused to get vaccinated, CEO Scott Kirby has confirmed – as a Texas judge temporarily blocked the airline from putting 2,000 workers on unpaid leave if they’re seeking religious or medical exemptions.

Kirby, 54, told CBS Mornings on Wednesday that the company had reached 99.7 per cent of their employees vaccinated in the six-weeks since announcing a vaccine mandate on August 6. 

United was the first airline to require all employees to be vaccinated.

‘You know, I wish we would have gotten to 100 per cent, but out of our 67,000 US employees there are 232 who have not been vaccinated and they are going through the termination process,’ he said.

It came after U.S. District Judge Mark Pittman from Northern Texas granted a temporary restraining order against United on Tuesday restricting the company from putting employees on unpaid leave for seeking medical and religious exemptions from the mandate. 

Six employees filed a federal lawsuit against United, citing unpaid leave as an unreasonable accommodation. 

The restraining order expires October 26, leaving around 2,000 United employees at risk of losing their jobs. 

Texas District Judge Mark Pittman (above) placed a restraining order against United Airlines, restricting them from putting around 2,000 unvaccinated employees seeking medical or religious exemptions on unpaid leave

Texas District Judge Mark Pittman (right) placed a restraining order against United Airlines, restricting them from putting around 2,000 unvaccinated employees seeking medical or religious exemptions on unpaid leave. United CEO Scott Kirby, 54, (left) announced that 99.7 per cent of his 67,000 employees are vaccinated and the 232 who refused the vaccine are going through the termination process 

Those with religious exemptions were told in a company memo that they would be placed on unpaid leave while the airline put in addition safety mitigation measures, including ‘new testing regimens, temporary job reassignments, and masking protocols.’ 

Lawyers for the employees and the airline agreed last month that United wouldn’t put the workers on unpaid leave, but the judge wrote that the agreement will expire before he can rule on the merits of the matter. 

That would leave ‘hundreds of workers’ at risk of being put on indefinite unpaid leave or forced to get a vaccination that violates their religious beliefs or medical restrictions.

On Wednesday, Kirby defended the Chicago-based company’s vaccine mandate, despite Texas Governor Abbott banning all mandates. 

And he claimed the mandate has not disrupted United workforce, including at their Houston hub. 

United announced its vaccine mandate on August 6 and told employees in a company memo that all unvaccinated employees seeking exemptions will be put on unpaid leave while the company implemented 'new testing regimens, temporary job reassignments, and masking protocols'

United announced its vaccine mandate on August 6 and told employees in a company memo that all unvaccinated employees seeking exemptions will be put on unpaid leave while the company implemented ‘new testing regimens, temporary job reassignments, and masking protocols’

‘I think we’ve proven at United, that’s just not the case. If you put a vaccinate mandate out there and you explain why you’re doing it and if you’re open, honest, and transparent with your employees about why you’re doing it, and even when some of them disagree – and a lot of them did disagree,’ Kirby told CBS Mornings. 

‘You know, the fact that we could get to 99.7 per cent in less than eight weeks, I think [it] proves you can make a vaccine mandate work as long your open, honest, and transparent on why you’re doing it.’  

Several airlines have followed in United footsteps, including Texas-based companies American and Southwest Airlines who have both claimed they will ignore Governor Abbott mandate ban. 

Kirby said he wished the company had achieved 100 per cent vaccination, but believed mandates worked and being ‘open, honest, and transparent’ was the key to getting employees onboard 

Abbott’s order mean American and Southwest could face a $1,000 fine for forcing employees to receive a vaccine because employees could lose their livelihoods. 

The order is set to protect employees from ‘losing their livelihoods’ by not being forced to get vaccinated or lose their jobs, according to the Washington Post. 

Georgia-based airline Delta has not mandated vaccines for employees, but is imposing a $200 monthly surcharge against unvaccinated members and requires them to be tested weekly. 

Delta has reported that 90 per cent of its workforce is vaccinated, according to the Hill. 

Travelers face rocketing prices and plane cancelations over holiday season as American and JetBlue set staff vaccination deadline for the day before Thanksgiving, sparking fears of staff walkouts and chaos

 As the holiday season rapidly approaches in the US, travelers who have not seen their families in months – and in some cases, years – face pricey plane trips and unexpected cancellations as airlines demand their employees get vaccinated.

What’s more, in addition to the astronomical airfares, unexpected cancellations and shocking wait times, travelers who elect to cross the states by car will have to deal with far higher gas prices than usual. 

Both American Airlines and JetBlue issued mandates this month requiring their employees get the jab before the holidays. 

The airlines have demanded their staff get their second shot of the COVID vaccine by November 24 – the day before Thanksgiving.

Any staff who’ve refused could walk out or face the ax on the busiest travel day in the American calendar, triggering a flood of flight cancelations due to a sudden shortage of staff.   

If a meltdown like that happens, flights that do end up taking off will see ticket prices soar even higher than normal for the pricey time of year as travelers whose planes have been canceled push up prices for other flights that remain scheduled.  

With Thanksgiving approaching and COVID restrictions relaxed from last year, experts say expect high airfares, long lines, and sudden cancellations

With Thanksgiving approaching and COVID restrictions relaxed from last year, experts say expect high airfares, long lines, and sudden cancellations

With COVID-19 travel restrictions relaxed from last year, record numbers of people are expected to hit airports in the coming months to travel to visit family they likely have not seen since the start of the pandemic

With COVID-19 travel restrictions relaxed from last year, record numbers of people are expected to hit airports in the coming months to travel to visit family they likely have not seen since the start of the pandemic

JetBlue have 22,000 staff, but have not said how many of their staff have had the shot. American – the world’s biggest airline – has 133,000 staff, and has also yet to disclose figures on how many of its workers are still to be vaccinated.  

What’s more, after nearly two years of reduced ridership, airlines have increased ticket prices to make up lost profits.

The average price for a US Thanksgiving flight is up 13 percent from 2019 – and a shocking 37 percent from last year.  

U.S. carriers’ 2020 net losses after the pandemic were in the billions, according to analyst estimates provided by the software company FactSet – and airlines are still projected to have lost more than $200 billion through next year.

Anyone hoping to save money by traveling by car is also in for a nasty shock, with  national average gas prices soaring by 50.75 per cent in a year.

A gallon of gas now costs $3.288, up $1.107 from the same time last year. The rocketing price increase has been blamed on a spike in the cost of crude oil, as demand bounces back quickly as the world reopens post-COVID. 

Economists predict prices are set to rise for an extended period of time, meaning there’s little hope of any respite for Thanksgiving.  

However, with COVID-19 travel restrictions relaxed from last year, record numbers of travelers are expected to traverse the country in the coming months to visit family they likely have not seen since the start of the pandemic.

'Expect airports and flights to be more packed than ever around Thanksgiving and Christmas,' Narendra Khatri, a travel insurance company executive, told The Washington Post last month. 'This means more flight delays, cancellations and long layovers.'

‘Expect airports and flights to be more packed than ever around Thanksgiving and Christmas,’ Narendra Khatri, a travel insurance company executive, told The Washington Post last month. ‘This means more flight delays, cancellations and long layovers.’

Any airline staff who've refused airlines' forced mask mandates could end up walking out on the job or face the ax - on the busiest travel day in the American calendar - triggering a flood of flight cancelations due to a sudden shortage of staff

Any airline staff who’ve refused airlines’ forced mask mandates could end up walking out on the job or face the ax – on the busiest travel day in the American calendar – triggering a flood of flight cancelations due to a sudden shortage of staff

This AAA chart shows how gas prices have rocketed this year, with holiday motorists set to face a hard time at the pumps

This AAA chart shows how gas prices have rocketed this year, with holiday motorists set to face a hard time at the pumps 

‘We’re seeing a lot of pent-up demand,’ Ankit Gupta, vice president of network planning and scheduling for another major airline, United, said in a statement.

The airline announced last month that holiday flight searches on their website are up 16 percent on their site compared to 2019. 

Meanwhile, interest in domestic flights for the Thanksgiving season is up a whopping 111 percent over last year, according to the travel site Trip Actions.

‘Expect airports and flights to be more packed than ever around Thanksgiving and Christmas,’ Narendra Khatri, a travel insurance company executive, told The Washington Post last month.

‘This means more flight delays, cancellations and long layovers.’ 

And prices are up too – across all of the major airlines.

For domestic flights, the average fare is $377, up 13 percent from 2019 and 37 percent from 2020. International flights are flat compared with 2019, averaging about $968 this year, but up 18 percent from last year. 

American Airline execs told their workers that they must be fully vaccinated by November 24 - the day before Thanksgiving - or face termination

American Airline execs told their workers that they must be fully vaccinated by November 24 – the day before Thanksgiving – or face termination

The airlines’ ultimatum comes after President Joe Biden’s executive order last month  requiring all airline employees be vaccinated by December 8 – and the two companies now join an assortment of other carriers who have complied with the White House’s demand.

Columbus Day weekend already saw an unprecedented stream of delays for another major airline, Southwest, when more than 2,300 flights were suddenly canceled over the course of the holiday weekend, amid rumors that hordes of pilots objecting to Biden’s mandate called out sick in protest.

Both the airline and its pilots union have denied those sick-out claims, although Southwest has suffered many times more cancelations in recent days than any other US airline.  

The head of Southwest’s pilots union, Capt. Casey Murray, blamed the company’s management for the snafu.  

Southwest has already been hampered by staffing shortages as demand for travel has shot up after travel laws lessened. 

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