After a controversial vaccine mandate deadline passed quietly on January 4, thousands of American Airlines employees may still be unvaccinated.
On Friday, the airline stated in an internal message that 96 percent of employees had indicated that they were completely vaccinated or had sought for an exemption from the rule.
The Dallas-Fort Worth-based airline has postponed any attempts to reprimand or terminate employees who have failed to comply with the mandate, instead requiring unvaccinated staff to wear face masks and self-test for COVID-19 on a regular basis.
The new guidelines, which will take effect on January 17, are a stopgap measure as American Airlines awaits a decision from the United States Supreme Court on the validity of vaccine mandates for large companies.
Workers who have applied for a religious or medical exemption will be need to prove their health on a weekly basis in addition to the masking and testing requirements.
President Biden warned corporations doing business with the federal government that if they didn’t compel their employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19, they could lose valuable contracts.
In October 2021, American Airlines imposed the vaccination mandate to U.S.-based employees.
The decision to support the mandate was divisive, as it put AA at odds with its pilots’ union, who stated that flight crews have ‘other ways of compliance,’ including as regular COVID-19 testing and mandatory mask-wearing.
The White House had set a deadline of December 8, 2021, but it was rapidly pushed back as legal challenges piled up.
American Airlines had 119,800 employees globally as of September 30, 2021. The rule only applies to employees based in the United States, and in some jurisdictions, the airline is prohibited from requesting immunization information. Additionally, the obligation does not apply to the 25,800 employees who work for regional subsidiaries.