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Should Airline Employees Get Priority On The COVID-19 Vaccine as “Essential Workers?”

Should Airline Employees Get Priority On The COVID-19 Vaccine as “Essential Workers?”
Joe Cortez

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) wants aviation workers to get priority access to the COVID-19 vaccine after doctors, nurses and other frontline employees. While they are not asking for transportation staff to be “at the top of the list,” the trade group is asking for consideration because they provide an essential service.

Although they agree that aviation workers shouldn’t be at the “top of the list” to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) is asking public health authorities to give airline workers priority in receiving the vaccine. The trade group passed a resolution requesting aviation employees additional consideration because they provide an “essential service” to the world.

IATA Calls for Airline Workers to Get Vaccine After Other Essential Workers

In their resolution, the IATA notes that aviation infrastructure plays a key role in how vaccine doses will be distributed around the world. As such, the trade group representing 290 airlines and over 80 percent of airline traffic are asking health officials to give those working in the aviation fields preference ahead of other populations.

The trade group agrees that airline workers should not be given the vaccine before health care workers and vulnerable groups are taken care of. However, IATA stresses that those in the field should be on the same tier as first responders, including police officers.

“We are not asking for aviation workers to be on top of the list, but we need governments to ensure that transportation workers are considered as essential when vaccine roll-out plans are developed,” IATA director general and CEO Alexandre de Juniac said in a press release. “The transportation of the COVID-19 vaccines has already begun, and as calculations show, it will require the equivalent of 8,000 Boeing 747 freighter aircraft for global distribution. It is therefore essential that we have the qualified workforce in place to ensure a functioning logistics chain.”

The request follows framework developed by the World Health Organization, in which transportation workers are considered a priority population, after health and education workers.

Priority Vaccination Latest Call for Aviation Assistance

The additional access to priority vaccination is the latest call to governments to assist the aviation sector. Earlier in December, the group issued a statement on five actions international regulators could take to help airlines outside of direct financial assistance.

View Comments (34)


  1. JimInOhio

    December 16, 2020 at 5:36 am

    No, they shouldn’t be given priority. Airlines tout their aircraft as being the safest places anywhere when it comes to COVID-19 so why should they be in line ahead of everyone else who, in many cases, consider themselves essential, too.

  2. J S

    December 16, 2020 at 8:27 am

    No. They should not get priority. And the bailouts to the airlines–for profit companies–should be paid back with interest as debt (or converted to equity at an appropriate (i.e., low) valuation.

  3. edgewood49

    December 16, 2020 at 9:15 am

    No they shouldn’t be given “essential worker” status however I think it behooves the airline industry to ensure that all of their employees receive the vaccine as soon as possible. Frankly I am tired of so many groups saying “me first”. Health care workers are the first in line then the elderly ( of course we have to take care of them) then us military veterans because those of us that have been in combat do have certain exposures that makes us prone to catching things.

  4. cmd320

    December 16, 2020 at 2:22 pm

    I would say yes, at least cabin crew, flight crew, and ground crew. Healthcare should be prioritized first ahead of everything else, followed by other essential workers.

  5. jamesteroh

    December 16, 2020 at 4:22 pm

    No. Retail workers are around a lot more people than airline employees and they aren’t asking for priority.

    I think masking and temp checks should be required of passengers though.

  6. AS Flyer

    December 16, 2020 at 5:58 pm

    As predicted, and as usual, reading the comments always gives one a glimpse into the worst of humanity.

  7. enggeol

    December 17, 2020 at 4:19 am

    No, essential workers in my view are those without whom we are all, or a group of highly vulnerable people, at serious risk of harm or death if that group of workers are impacted severely i.e. healthcare, care home workers, other emergency services. In the UK thereafter it is being done by age as age is the dominant factor in increased risk from COVID.

  8. gay

    December 17, 2020 at 4:21 am

    No. The airlines already got billions and billions of taxpayers’ money.

  9. Weez_1000

    December 17, 2020 at 4:48 am

    My problem is, where does it end? As the person above stated, retail workers are essential, grocery store workers are essential, bus drivers, taxi drivers, Uber, Lyft? I think some prioritization is absolutely warranted, but where should they fall?

  10. Kimo56

    December 17, 2020 at 5:29 am

    No. The term Essential Worker blurs rapidly once Front Line, Health Care and First Responders have been vaccinated. The elderly, especially those in care facilities, are certainly not Essential Workers, but they are the most vulnerable and vaccinating them is a compassionate move. Beyond these groups identified by the CDC, the Essential Worker line expands rapidly. Some of this is the Me First attitude, most people, for one reason or another, believe they are essential. Sorry to burst your bubble, You’re Not.

    Regarding AS Flyer’s comment, there is no basis for this conclusion. No one said airline line personnel should be denied a vaccination, rather, the airline personnel are not as Essential as they believe themselves to be.

  11. binman

    December 17, 2020 at 5:47 am

    No they should not be prioritised. Health workers, the most vulnerable. Emergency services staff, school college and education staff. Are the most critical groups.
    People can the BD vaccinated depending on age and clinical need, not ability to pay.

  12. iorr61

    December 17, 2020 at 6:16 am

    My 1st reaction is, yes. Doing my own triage, not at the top of the list, as I think we can all agree, but somewhere in the earlier groups. If not for the protection it offers them, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing there are a few less people you don’t need to worry about while traveling.

  13. schelsr

    December 17, 2020 at 6:33 am

    They should be in the “general pool” of vaccine recipients. COVID has proven them to be non-essential. Next topic!

  14. vargha

    December 17, 2020 at 6:39 am

    They can take my place in line.

  15. pulokk1

    December 17, 2020 at 7:09 am

    If that puts them ahead of teachers, school personnel, delivery drivers, food workers, child protection workers, foster care providers, personal care attendants, the aged and medically fragile, etc, then no.

  16. azmojo

    December 17, 2020 at 7:46 am

    What does the data say? The data I have seen does not seem to indicate that covid has been a significant issue for flight crews. And retail workers for that matter.

  17. fish3d

    December 17, 2020 at 7:51 am

    Hope they get the vaccine. They are in close contact with passengers.

  18. c502cid

    December 17, 2020 at 9:22 am

    They can certainly have mine.

  19. NonnaGoes

    December 17, 2020 at 9:37 am

    Yes. But only public facing employees, along with retail and other public facing employees.

    Along with the vaccine, though, ALL employees whose jobs put them in regular contact with the public should receive hazard pay.

  20. dsellens

    December 17, 2020 at 10:12 am

    I think there is a pretty good consensus here. We have to define Essential workers and where their priority will be. There seems to be agreement there that airline workers are in the same essential worker category as taxi drivers, grocery store clerks, teachers, etc that work with the public. That puts them well after 1. emergency and front line workers, 2. elderly care givers and elderly in group home settings. 3, over 65 in general. Then somewhere after that is essential workers before the general public.

  21. btbx11

    December 17, 2020 at 10:13 am

    No. Every worker would like to think of themselves as essential, and most are in many ways. But the vaccine should go to those in occupations that are in truly essential industries which are most likely to aid the spread of covid, namely FRONT LINE medical and grocery workers. Even first responders or teachers (for example) -while certainly essential- don’t have anywhere near the covid-spreading potential of a grocery or medical worker.

  22. oh912flyer

    December 17, 2020 at 10:22 am

    I strongly urge anyone considering getting the vaccine to first get tested for Covid antibodies… no need for a vaccine if you’ve already been exposed to and defeated it…

  23. cairns

    December 17, 2020 at 10:42 am

    I thought the airplanes are perfectly safe. If so why should they get ahead of anyone?

  24. glob99

    December 17, 2020 at 10:45 am

    Those working in meat packing plants should be at the top of the line. They have been forced to work in unsafe conditions by executive order.

  25. crwander

    December 17, 2020 at 11:17 am

    The cabin crews, at least, should be given some priority. They are in contact with a lot of customers in close quarters.

  26. IBobi


    December 17, 2020 at 11:17 am

    Yes they absolutely should.

  27. Always Flyin

    December 17, 2020 at 2:11 pm

    Perhaps people here should look at who the CDC lists as essential workers for COVID-19 vaccine purposes.

    They estimate it is 80-million people in the U.S.

    Transportation workers are already on the list.

  28. SamirD

    December 17, 2020 at 2:18 pm

    Like everything late, something that makes perfect logical sense and is fair overall isn’t going to be the outcome. Here’s the way priority should be given, if a lack of supply deems it necessary–people who need their job to literally survive and are in continuous exposure to the public as part of their job. This pretty much covers all health workers, and not just the nurses and doctors, but even the receptionist who is at just as much risk. And it goes further to expand to grocery workers, post office employees, and other critical infrastructure that without we take steps to going back to the stone age. By the time to get all these people okay, then there should be enough for the rest of humanity to fight over.

    And the vaccine will bring its own problem of people thinking they’re fine so they can live life back like normal–which will only spread the disease more. And then put even more pressure on vaccination, and in turn, more at risk people will die.

    Personally, I’ve been living in the house for months now where my dad died from covid. And 3 separate tests show that I’m still negative. I guess I’m just immune. But I’d give anything to have my dad back. I basically don’t leave the house–ever. So I don’t catch it, and I don’t spread it. And whenever everyone else is okay again, I’ll crawl out of my isolation hole to go get a vaccine, still cautious all the way.

  29. FlyingNone

    December 17, 2020 at 3:05 pm

    “The transportation of the COVID-19 vaccines has already begun, and as calculations show, it will require the equivalent of 8,000 Boeing 747 freighter aircraft for global distribution. It is therefore essential that we have the qualified workforce in place to ensure a functioning logistics chain.”
    MAYBE the “qualified” workforce here would be anyone working cargo (rampside) or the cockpit crew. Period.
    Even if passenger airplanes are used for transporting the virus, ticket counter, gate agents and flight attendants are still not essential. If that were the case then you’d have to vaccinate every person that intends to fly during the pandemic as well. Airline employees really need a clue as to who is essential — and it isn’t them.

  30. Always Flyin

    December 18, 2020 at 12:32 am

    @FlyingNone: The CDC disagrees with you. They are already on the list in Group 2 (1.b.)

  31. aztimm

    December 18, 2020 at 9:28 am

    Absolutely not. Very few passengers traveling right now to Cancun, Hawaii, or Disneyworld are doing so for essential business, and those supporting them should not be considered essential either.

  32. volabam

    December 19, 2020 at 9:22 pm

    They should be given priority so they don’t have the excuse that they’re vulnerable to justify forcing passengers to have the inadequately tested vaccine.

  33. Aizu

    December 21, 2020 at 11:16 am

    I believe some of you are forgetting the airlines are transporting the vaccine. I don’t believe a cargo ship would be efficient or capable of shipping the vaccine withing the shelf life.

    Regardless of your personal feelings with the airlines, they are in fact an essential part of the distribution chain. Sick airline employees disrupt the supply chain of the vaccine. I’d say it is important to protect those in the supply chain for the sake of all of us.

  34. carlosdca


    January 12, 2021 at 12:49 pm

    As previous poster said, airlines have said that airplanes are “THE SAFEST” in regards to Covid. Airlines/IATA have also published “studies” that say there is minimal probability of getting covid on airplanes. So, why should they be worried about their crews?

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