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Southwest Latest Airline to Mandate COVID-19 Vaccination

Despite loud objections from their pilots union, Southwest Airlines says they will comply with the federal mandate for certain businesses to require all workers to get vaccinated against the virus causing COVID-19.
With certain parts of their business at stake, Southwest Airlines says they will require all employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19.


In a press release, the Dallas-based airline announced they would comply with President Biden’s executive order requiring certain businesses to vaccinate all their employees by December 8, 2021.

“I encourage all Southwest Employees to meet the federal directive as quickly as possible”

The COVID-19 pandemic created one of the most stressful periods for Southwest in their 51-year history. Coming off the heels of the Boeing 737 MAX grounding, the novel Coronavirus outbreak forced the carrier to seriously consider layoffs for the first time in their history. After federal funding came through to save jobs at the airline, the carrier announced a leadership change, with longtime executive Gary Kelly retiring on February 1, 2022, to be replaced by vice president of corporate services Robert Jordan.


Although the carrier resisted creating a vaccination requirement for employees, the executive order signed by President Joe Biden requiring companies over 100 employees and government contractors to have all employees inoculated changed those plans. After review, the company says they have no choice but to comply with the rule.


“Southwest Airlines must join our industry peers in complying with the federal government’s COVID-19 vaccination directive,” Gary Kelly, Southwest Airlines chair and chief executive said in the statement. “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.”


Under the federal mandate, Southwest employees will be required to provide proof of vaccination by the December deadline, or get approved for a religious, medical, or disability accommodation. Those who do not get vaccinated may be subject to termination, as the federal mandate does not offer an alternative of weekly testing and mandatory wearing of face coverings.


With the move, Southwest becomes the seventh U.S. based airline to require vaccination as a condition of employment, joining United Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, Frontier Airlines, American Airlines, Alaska Airlines and JetBlue. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports Delta Air Lines has not yet adopted a vaccine requirement.


Pilots Continue to Rally Against Vaccine Requirements

Although the executive order is making vaccine mandates all but inevitable for all carriers, the Southwest Airlines’ Pilots Association (SWAPA) is making their opposition to the requirements loud and clear. In addition to suing the carrier over working conditions, the union is joining the Allied Pilots Association in pushing back against the shots, claiming they could jeopardize the careers of their workers.

volabam October 14, 2021

The denial that there's a sick-out happening over this is both sad and hilarious to watch. The delays and cancellations are all "weather." Just like always.

Dublin_rfk October 12, 2021

Another "mandate" another weather delay? Funny how more Southwest flights are affected than the rest of the industry.  

Buzzz October 6, 2021

I'm more inclined to fly Southwest now, and my take on public sentiment is that the majority of the flying public feels the way I do. 

WebTraveler October 5, 2021

Get vaccinated.

It is that simple.

volabam October 5, 2021

The administration gave them cover to do what they wanted to do all along and it's an easy way to RIF without paying severance while air travel is down as the people who don't want to "mask up" between bites and sips stay home or drive.