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Southwest Airlines makes vaccines a requirement for employees

The air carrier says workers have until Dec. 8 to be vaccinated

A social distancing sign is displayed at a check-in area for Southwest Airlines at Los Angeles International Airport. (Patrick T. Fallon/Reuters)

Southwest Airlines is the latest U.S. carrier to require that all of its employees be vaccinated against the coronavirus.

The Dallas-based carrier said Monday that employees will have until Dec. 8 to provide proof of vaccination or face the possibility of losing their jobs. The carrier said employees may seek religious, disability or medical accommodations exemptions.

“Southwest Airlines must join our industry peers in complying with the federal government’s COVID-19 vaccination directive,” said Gary Kelly, Southwest Airlines chairman and chief executive. “I encourage all Southwest employees to meet the federal directive, as quickly as possible, since we value every individual and want to ensure job security for all.”

United Airlines, Frontier Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines were among the first to require the shots. Southwest previously had said it hoped that incentives — including two additional days of pay for those who get vaccinated — would motivate workers.

Last month, President Biden announced that private companies with 100 or more employees would be required to ensure that their workers were vaccinated or implement weekly testing programs. While U.S. airlines fall into that category, many also are government contractors who must meet a Dec. 8 deadline for vaccinations. There is no testing option for contractors.

United Airlines says nearly all its workers have been vaccinated

Late last week, American Airlines, Alaska Airlines and JetBlue Airways announced vaccine requirements. United Airlines, the first U.S. carrier to require the coronavirus vaccine, announced recently that nearly all of its workers had submitted proof of vaccination.

Delta Air Lines, which will impose a $200 a month health insurance surcharge on unvaccinated employees beginning Nov. 1, has not yet said whether it will require vaccinations.

“Delta’s own approach to encourage a high rate of employee vaccinations continues to work, with an 84% workforce vaccination rate and climbing daily,” the airline said in a statement Monday. “While we continue to examine the Administration’s executive order, Delta people who remain unvaccinated can continue their careers while undergoing mandatory masking, weekly testing and — beginning in November — assessment of a $200 health care surcharge.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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