American Airlines has told its 15,000 pilots that a COVID-19 vaccination is a personal choice, and if they decide to have one, could they please do it in their own time. American Airlines has no current plans to make it mandatory for their pilots to get vaccinated. At the same time, nearly 11 million Americans have received the COVID-19 vaccination.
Tracey Rucinski is reporting in Reuters about a memo sent to American Airlines pilots from senior management.
“Your decision to take the vaccines is a personal decision and is currently not required by the Company,” the memo says.
“As such, if you elect to take the vaccine you should schedule it on your days off and so that it does not impact your ability to be in place and operate your scheduled flying given the 48-hour requirement.”
There is an FAA rule saying pilots cannot fly for 48-hours after receiving the COVID-19 vaccination.
Vaccinations rolling out, but pilots not a top priority
The United States is prioritizing who gets the COVID-19 vaccination first. The airline industry isn’t top of the list. The Centers for Disease Control is targeting frontline healthcare and emergency response employees first. The United States also has no plans to make vaccinations compulsory. That puts airlines in a tight spot. They want their crews healthy and able to fly but right now, it’s a matter of personal choice for pilots.
American Airlines says it encourages all its employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19. But the airline does not currently plan to make it compulsory. However, American Airlines does say some countries they fly to or plan to resume flying to may make a COVID-19 vaccination a condition of entry there.
American Airlines position in line with other United States-based airlines
The current American Airlines policy is in line with some other United States-based airlines.
Delta Air Lines’ spokesperson Morgan Durrant told Simple Flying the airlines was actively working with all of the states to understand how Delta employees will be prioritized in the initial distribution of vaccines.
“From the beginning of the pandemic, we’ve put people first and that will continue to be the case as vaccines roll out. We are strongly advocating that our frontline employees be considered part of the CDC recommended phase for essential workers.”
Airlines across the United States continue to suffer the after-effects of 2020 and the travel downturn. Recurring outbreaks of COVID-19 and the threat of new, highly transmissible strains continue to be a drag on demand. The rollout of the COVID-19 vaccination will not come fast enough for airlines such as American.
Simple Flying approached the American Airlines pilots union, the Allied Pilots Association for a comment on the memo from American Airlines’ management. However, we have not heard back before the publication deadline.