United Airlines announced Friday that it will require all of its US employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19 by the fall, becoming the first major airline to do so.
The Chicago-based airline’s 67,000 US employees must be vaccinated by no later than Oct. 25 or risk termination, CEO Scott Kirby and President Brett Hart said in a letter to employees Friday.
“We know some of you will disagree with this decision to require the vaccine for all United employees,” the executives wrote. “But, we have no greater responsibility to you and your colleagues than to ensure your safety when you’re at work, and the facts are crystal clear: everyone is safer when everyone is vaccinated.”
“Over the last 16 months, Scott has sent dozens of condolences letters to the family members of United employees who have died from COVID-19. We’re determined to do everything we can to try to keep another United family from receiving that letter,” the letter went on.
Employees who get vaccinated and provide proof to United before Sept. 20 will receive an additional day of pay, as well, the letter said.
The company said employees must upload proof that they received either two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson shot. Workers have until five weeks after the Food and Drug Administration gives full approval to the shots or by Oct. 25, whichever is first, the letter added.
A United spokesperson added that there will be “a very narrow reasonable accommodation process (as required by law) for religious and medical exemptions.”
“We’ll handle those on a case-by-case basis and if anyone is granted an exception, they will have to be masked at all times,” they said.
United executives have long encouraged employees and customers to get vaccinated.
Since June, United has required all newly hired employees to be vaccinated, but stopped short of mandating the shots for the entire workforce.
United’s decision comes after a wave of major employers have announced similar mandates for their workforces as the Delta variant of the coronavirus sends cases of COVID-19 soaring.
Tech companies, including Facebook and Microsoft, have said employees must be vaccinated to return to the office. Walmart, the nation’s largest employer, announced last week that corporate staff and managers must get vaccinated.
And Tyson Foods announced this week that all of its US employees must get vaccinated or risk termination by the end of the year.