Southwest Airlines to require COVID-19 vaccine for all employees

All Southwest Airlines employees will be required to get vaccinated against COVID-19, the Dallas-based company announced Monday.

"Southwest Airlines must join our industry peers in complying with the federal government's COVID-19 vaccination directive," said Gary Kelly, Southwest Airlines chairman and CEO. "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."

54,000 Southwest employees must be vaccinated by Dec. 8 or be approved for a religious, medical, or disability accommodation, the company said. 

It’s unclear how many of the company’s 10,000 pilots and 16,000 flight attendants have already been vaccinated.

"The pilot group might consider doing it, but even with that it’s going to be very difficult," said aviation expert Denny Kelly.

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He says despite the directive from the government, it could take some negotiation between the airlines and their unions.

"It’s kind of like herding cats. It’s almost impossible. And I think that American and Southwest are going to have a problem," Kelly said.

Southwest’s announcement comes just days after Fort-Worth based American Airlines announced it too will enforce a vaccine mandate for its employees.

The Allied Pilots Association - which represents 14,000 American pilots - says roughly 10,000 have gotten the vaccine.

JetBlue Airways, Alaska Airlines and United Airlines have all released similar vaccine announcements. United gave its employees until last week to get vaccinated. It said 99 percent of its employees compiled, but roughly 500 people are now in the process of being let go by the company.

The last major airline that has not made a vaccine mandate announcement is Delta Airlines. It’s  currently requiring unvaccinated employees pay an extra $200 per month for their insurance.

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