The CEO of United Airlines, one of the United States’ largest passenger carriers states that he wants to make COVID-19 vaccines mandatory for the company’s employees. United currently hires more than 60,000 people across its many operations.
In a statement to an employee town hall on Thursday, CEO Scott Kirby stated that other airlines should adopt a similar position by vaccinating their employees. Under the CDC’s health mandates, airline workers are considered essential workers and are eligible for vaccination before the general population.
Kirby’s position defers from other carriers who have refrained from adopting a pro-vaccine stance, reports CNBC.
“The worst thing that I believe I will ever do in my career is the letters that I have written to the surviving family members of coworkers that we have lost to the coronavirus,” CEO Scott Kirby said at an employee meeting, according to CNBC. “And so, for me, because I have confidence in the safety of the vaccine – and I recognize it’s controversial – I think the right thing to do is for United Airlines, and for other companies, to require the vaccines and to make them mandatory.”
In his statement, Kirby acknowledged that the company faced logistical challenges to vaccinating all of its staff due to the slow rollout of the vaccines nationwide.
“I don’t think United will get away with and can realistically be the only company that requires vaccines and makes them mandatory,” he said. “We need some others. We need some others to show leadership. Particularly in the healthcare industry.”
Other airlines, including Southwest Airlines and American Airlines, have encouraged employees to get vaccinated but do not currently require it. In a statement, American Airlines told employees that “We do not plan to require our team members to receive the vaccine unless vaccinations are ultimately mandated for entry to certain destinations.”
In contrast, United told its employees to get vaccinated as soon as possible and not wait for permission from the airline.