From October 1, Hawaiian Airlines will finally abandon its divisive employee vaccination requirement, allowing unvaccinated staff to resume their employment for the first time since February 2022.
Although 200 employees who chose to take an indefinite term of unpaid absence rather than obtain the vaccination will now be permitted back to work, the airline claims that the obligation helped it reach a COVID-19 vaccination rate among employees of 96 percent.
Nearly 100 former employees who left their employment in opposition to the mandate are also anticipated to get invitations from Hawaiian Airlines to reapply for their previous positions.
CEO Peter Ingram acknowledged that the requirement had been an “emotional and difficult subject” but argued that vaccines were still “very effective at preventing severe illness” in internal communication.
Ingram continues to urge vaccination skeptics to get the shot despite the mandate’s lifting and hopes that eligible employees receive their booster shots as well.
Just a week after United Airlines became the first airline in the US to declare a similar policy, Hawaiian Airlines made its initial announcement in August 2021 that it would be implementing one.
A small handful of workers attempted to challenge Hawaiian’s rule in federal court, claiming that the airline had discriminated against them because of their religion. A judge threw out the case in February after concluding that loss of employment as a result of a vaccine mandate did not constitute “irreparable harm”.
United Airlines ended its vaccination requirement in March, but the company claimed that the requirement had saved lives when the Omicron surge was at its worst and 3,000 employees were absent from work due to COVID-19, but not a single one had been admitted to the hospital.