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American Regional Carrier Wants Pilots to Wait on COVID-19 Shots

American Airlines subsidiary Piedmont Airlines is discouraging pilots from getting the COVID-19 vaccine at this time, so that there will be more available for passengers. The internal memo suggests they will not be able to release pilots from duty because of the “high demand” for shots and flights.

An American Airlines subsidiary is asking their pilots to wait to get the COVID-19 vaccine, as the public demand for the shot continues to grow. CBS News reports Piedmont Airlines made the request for their aviators to hold off so that future flyers can get their shots first.

Airline Holding Off on Releasing Pilots from Work to Get Vaccines

In the memo seen by CBS News, the carrier’s chief pilot reportedly told their aviators that they would not be able to release any pilots on the weekend of March 19, 2021, because of “high demand.” This could refer to both the continued recovery of the aviation industry, as well as the continued public interest in getting the shot.

Instead, the airline asked their pilots to schedule their vaccination at a later date, so that the carrier could maintain “operational reliability.” Sources at the airline speaking to CBS News under the condition of anonymity said that the carrier is continuing to deny pilots the off-time to get their shots, because they are needed at work.

The issue comes at a time when flyers are not only booking travel again, but feel comfortable enough to take to the skies once again. On March 21, 2021, the Transportation Security Administration reported screening over 1.5 million passengers. This marks the single-day record for this year, though still lower than the 2.2 million screened on the same date in 2019.

Although airline recovery is still a good sign for aviation workers, pilots are still asking for the appropriate time to get the vaccine. While the anonymous employee said they are grateful to be working, “pilots need to be allowed to be protected…without retribution.”

Airlines Ask White House for Additional COVID-19 Support and Organization

The pilots’ dilemma comes as airlines are experiencing problems navigating the post-pandemic world. Groups of stakeholders have asked the White House to not only help create a digital health passport standard, but to also create a roadmap for opening international borders.

mvoight March 30, 2021

Not EVERYONE else. Of course, if these pilots get sick, it threatens others they encounter, and it might cost the airline pilots when they need them. I took a 2 hour lunch for my shot, and I am sure my employer supported it 100 percent. Getting sick costs far more time than the shots

donna538 March 26, 2021

Why can't they just schedule them for their off time just like everyone else?

brenc3 March 26, 2021

The linked article doesn't say anything about the "high demand" referring to public interest in shots. It hardly makes sense that a pilot (who encounters hundreds of FAs, staff, and passengers every day) would forgo a vaccination to allow a member of the public (who is exposed to far fewer people on average) to get vaccinated first. And there are so few pilots that it wouldn't make a dent in demand. This seems entirely due to the FAA rule that pilots can't fly 48 hrs after a dose.