In Policy Change, Alaska Air Requires COVID-19 Vaccine for Employees

SEATTLE – Alaska Air Group told its 22,000 employees Thursday night that they will need to get vaccinated against COVID-19, with a few exceptions, an approval in policy established last month that only encouraged and rewarded vaccinated employees.

New York-based JetBlue also said it was implementing a similar policy, now joining United Airlines, which was the first major U.S. airline to give all of its employees vaccinations.

In an email to all Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air employees, the Seattle-based company said that, in accordance with the White House executive order requiring all federal contractors to vaccinate their employees, “now all employees must be fully vaccinated or approved for reasonable reasons. Accommodation. “

This replaces the policy Alaska announced last month, which paid vaccinated employees $ 200 and required regular testing for others. At the time, Alaska said 75% of its employees had already been vaccinated.

A note from Andy Schneider, Alaska’s Senior Vice President, states that President Joe Biden’s executive order applies to Alaska Air subsidiaries and some subcontractors.

“After careful consideration of this order, we have determined that Alaska, Horizon, and McGee employees (including certain contractors and suppliers) are under this federal mandate for the vaccine because of our important work for the federal government, as well as for other major US Airlines. This policy will supersede our company’s testing or vaccination policy that we announced earlier this month, ”Schneider told employees in the email.

Alaska said the deadline for employees to be fully immunized could be Dec. 8 and has set deadlines for getting each of the available vaccines in order to meet that deadline.

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The airline is extending its $ 200 offer to newly vaccinated employees through December 1. Employees who have already provided proof of vaccination or who have done so before the original October 15 deadline will receive a payment of $ 200 on their first salary in November.

Alaska said employees can request “reasonable accommodation for sincere religious beliefs or a health problem that prevents them from receiving the vaccine on Dec. 1.”

Employees granted a religious or medical exemption “may be subject to additional protocols such as weekly testing, continuous masking and social distancing, change of work schedule or location, delayed training start dates, inability to attend events in person or leave without pay, “the email from Schneider said.

JetBlue spokesman Derek Dombrowski said by email that the New York-based airline “will fully comply with the federal vaccine mandate for federal contractors and we have communicated this vaccine requirement to our staff. Crew members.” .

United Airlines announced in August that it would require employees to be vaccinated Monday this week or they would be fired.

United said Tuesday that while nearly all of its 67,000 employees had been vaccinated, it had begun the process of laying off 593 employees because they had not been vaccinated or had not received exemptions. On Thursday, the company said the number of people threatened with dismissal dropped to 320.

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