Airlines

Southwest Airlines offers extra pay for staff to get vaccinated against Covid-19

Key Points
  • Southwest's vaccine incentive includes 16 hours of extra pay to most employees and pay for 13 trip segments for pilots and flight attendants.
  • The airline will also end Covid pay protections for staff in mid-November if they are unvaccinated.
  • The policy follows similar plans by other airlines, which were rolled out earlier this year.

In this article

A traveler wearing a protective mask speaks with an attendant at the Southwest Airlines check-in area at Oakland International Airport in Oakland, California, on Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021.
David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Southwest Airlines on Wednesday introduced new incentives to get staff vaccinated against Covid-19, following similar policies that other carriers rolled out earlier this year.

The Dallas-based carrier said it will offer extra pay to staff who show proof of full vaccination by mid-November, according to a company memo, which was reviewed by CNBC.

Employees who upload their vaccination cards to the company by the end of Nov. 15 will get 16 hours of pay, though flight attendants and pilots will receive pay for 13 trip segments, the company said.

Southwest told staff that its new policies are "unrelated" to the sweeping measures President Joe Biden announced last week to increase Covid-19 vaccinations. However, Southwest last week said it was "prepared to move toward compliance" with the forthcoming rules. Biden has asked the Department of Labor to make Covid inoculations mandatory for companies with more than 100 employees.

"If you have not been vaccinated and choose to do so, this timeline gives you enough time to receive both rounds of a two-series vaccine or the single-dose vaccine," Southwest wrote to staff.

Southwest will also restrict quarantine pay protections for Covid infections to staff who have been vaccinated, effective Nov. 16. Those unvaccinated employees can still use their own sick time, however.

The airline's new policies come months after carriers including Delta Air Lines, American Airlines and United Airlines offered incentives like extra pay to encourage staff to get vaccinated.

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Airline recovery is closely tied to a decline in Covid cases, a loosening of travel restrictions and business travel resuming.

Carriers have taken varying approaches to get staff vaccinated. United last month said it will require its roughly 67,000-person U.S. workforce to be vaccinated this fall and said it will put staff who receive religious exemptions on temporary unpaid leave. On Thursday, Kate Gebo, United's executive vice president of human resources, told staff that 90% of United's U.S. employees have been vaccinated.

Delta, for its part, plans to charge unvaccinated employees $200 more a month for company health insurance starting in November.

American and Alaska Airlines earlier this month announced they were ending pay protections for unvaccinated workers.

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