Airlines

American, Alaska Air will end pay protections for unvaccinated staff if they contract Covid

Key Points
  • American Air and Alaska Air said unvaccinated workers will have to use their sick time if they have to quarantine for contracting or coming into contact with Covid.
  • Southwest Airlines says it will restore pay for quarantine time deducted from employees' sick day banks back to mid-June.
  • United last month announced a vaccine mandate and Delta will impose a $200 surcharge on employees under company health insurance if they're not vaccinated.
American Airlines flight 718, the first U.S. Boeing 737 MAX commercial flight since regulators lifted a 20-month grounding in November, takes off from Miami, Florida, December 29, 2020.
Marco Bello | Reuters

American Airlines and Alaska Airlines will no longer cover Covid-19 quarantine time for employees who aren't vaccinated against the virus, the latest push to get staff inoculated.

"Going forward, given there is an FDA-approved vaccine, pandemic leave will only be offered to team members who are fully vaccinated and who provide their vaccination card to us," American said in a staff memo Thursday. The change starts Oct. 1 and unvaccinated workers will have to use their sick time or medical leave if they miss work because of Covid.

The similar policy at Alaska Airlines went into effect Aug. 30.

Both airlines stopped short of instituting a vaccine mandate, like the one United Airlines announced last month, and the policy changes show diverging tactics among carriers in encouraging workers to get vaccinated.

Alaska Airlines on Thursday said it would pay employees $200 if they disclose their proof of Covid-19 vaccination by Oct. 15 and said those who fail to do so will be considered unvaccinated. Employees who are unvaccinated will have to wear masks at all times on the job and attend a "mandatory vaccine education program."

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Southwest Airlines, which also doesn't require employees to be vaccinated, said it would restore pay or paid time off to workers who had to quarantine due to a Covid-19 infection or for being in close contact with someone who tested positive, retroactive to June 16. The company had discontinued that program in mid-June, citing a drop in Covid cases and high vaccine availability.

Southwest's pilots union earlier this week sued the airline, alleging that a number of Covid-related polices, including the end of paid time off for exposure or infection, required negotiation with the union.

"With COVID-19 cases continuing to rise, due to the Delta variant, Southwest is taking an additional step to support our Employees by implementing a Quarantine Pay Program," said spokeswoman Brandy King. The new policy will restore time-off balances for staff "who previously, and responsibly, quarantined for Company-related incidents over the summer as cases spiked in the general population across the country."

Delta Air Lines last week said it will impose a $200 monthly surcharge on employees covered by the company health insurance on Nov. 1 if they are not vaccinated. The Atlanta-based carrier also said it would stop pay protection for unvaccinated staff if they miss work because of a Covid infection.