Travel | September 29, 2021 11:56 am

Pilot Unions Are Claiming Vaccine Mandates Could Be a Bigger Roadblock to Holiday Travel Than COVID

One letter cited the "unique physical fitness standards" that pilots have to abide while defending its members right to reject vaccination

Pilot Unions Are Claiming Vaccine Mandates Could Be a Bigger Roadblock to Holiday Travel Than COVID
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Unions representing pilots at both American and Southwest airlines are seeking exemptions from President Biden’s vaccine mandate. The reason? According to Allied Pilots Association (APA) president Captain Eric Ferguson, pilots being mandated to receive the vaccine will lead to holiday travel disruptions.

“To ensure commercial aviation’s ongoing viability by avoiding a scenario in which airlines are forced to either offer unpaid leaves of absence or, worse, implement mass terminations of unvaccinated pilots, it is essential that an alternate means of compliance with the Executive Order be made available for professional pilots,” reads a letter obtained by Politico from the APA to officials across the FAA, Congress, DOT and more.

The letter also expresses concern over the pilots’ health, and being held to “unique physical fitness standards in order to maintain [their] medical certificates by virtue of the requirements in Part 67 of the Federal Aviation Regulations.”

“Consequently, unlike the great majority of other occupations, our careers can summarily end due to a wide range of medical conditions,” it says.

“We are not pro- or anti-vaccine, we are not anti-vaccine mandate necessarily as it pertains to everybody else but as it pertains to your job — you need to have the option to not get vaccinated,” Ferguson said in a podcast to pilots on September 24, the same day the letter was distributed, according to a report from Skift.

If these guys really think vaccinations are going to screw up holiday travel plans … wait until they hear about the effects of COVID-19! At best, pilots who have tested positive will presumably be forced to quarantine for no fewer than 10 days, as per the CDC’s recommendation. At worst? Well, I think we’re all familiar with all of the worst outcomes at this point in time, but rest assured that nothing will disrupt holiday travel quite as badly as a bunch of pilots contracting COVID.

Meanwhile, United Airlines was the first of the major U.S. airlines to announce that it would require its staff to be vaccinated no later than October 1. Thus far, 98.5 percent of its 84,000 employees have reportedly been inoculated, and — shocker! — they are experiencing no more disruptions in operations than any other airline at present. As it stands now, fewer than 600 United employees will face termination for failure to vaccinate (unless they apply for medical or religious exemption). That’s less than 1% of the company’s U.S.-based workforce. Not only that, but by setting a deadline of October 1, United has given itself nearly two months to recover from all potential losses prior to the start of the holiday season. In other words, the math ain’t exactly mathin’ here, Captain Ferguson.