Alaska Airlines is stopping paid time off for unvaccinated staff who contract or are exposed to COVID-19

Alaska Airlines Airbus A320
Unvaccinated staff will also have to get regular coronavirus tests. Angel DiBilio.Shutterstock.com
  • Alaska Airlines is stopping paid time off for unvaccinated staff who contract COVID-19.
  • They’ll also have to do a vaccine education program, the airline’s parent company said Thursday.
  • Alaska and sister company Horizon Air are mandating vaccines for new hires but not current staff.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Staff at Alaska Airlines and its sister company Horizon Air who are not vaccinated won’t get paid for time off if they are exposed to or contract the coronavirus, their parent company Alaska Air said Thursday.

A statement posted on Alaska Air’s website said 75% of employees who shared their vaccine status were vaccinated.

It added it would build on this “good progress” by “implementing new measures designed to increase vaccination rates.”

It said it would require new hires be vaccinated “effective immediately” and that current staff who provide proof of vaccination will be given $US200 ($AU270).

“Throughout the pandemic, the safety of our employees and guests has always come first, and we are committed to protecting our fellow employees, guests and loved ones from the impacts of the COVID-19 virus,” the statement continued.

“[We] have stopped special COVID pay for unvaccinated employee absences due to exposure or infection.”

Unvaccinated staff will also have to get regular coronavirus tests as well as participating in a “vaccine education program,” it added.

All new hires need to be vaccinated against COVID-19, “effective immediately,” Alaska Air said.

Current staff who provide proof of vaccination will be given $US200 ($AU270), it added.

The Seattle Times reported that unvaccinated Alaska Airlines staff would instead have to use sick leave or vacation time while they isolate.

If they don’t have sick leave or vacation time, this will be unpaid time off, the newspaper reported, citing a staff memo from Alaska Air CEO Ben Minicucci.

The Seattle Times also reported that unvaccinated workers at the airline would have to sign a document acknowledging the risks of being unvaccinated.

The paper also reported that three unvaccinated Alaska Airlines employees, including a pilot, had died after contracting COVID-19 since July.

Alaska Air did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

“We believe having as many people as possible vaccinated is the is best path for protection against COVID-19 and we will continue to strongly encourage our employees to be vaccinated,” Alask Air’s public statement added.

Unlike United Airlines, Alaska and Horizon aren’t mandating vaccines for their current employees.

Delta Airlines said last month that workers who don’t get vaccinated would have to pay $US200 ($AU270) extra a month for health insurance.

More and more companies are mulling vaccine mandates amid the spread of the Delta variant.

More than 52% of companies plan to have one or more vaccine mandate requirement, according to a survey by Willis Towers Watson – but some workers have said they’ll quit their jobs if they’re forced to get the jab at a time when airlines are still struggling to find enough staff.

While United Airlines has mandated the vaccine for all staff, others, including Delta, Alaska, and Horizon, are only requiring it for new hires, while encouraging existing staff to get the jab with perks like bonuses.

But vaccine mandates are much more widespread among cruise companies, with some, like Norwegian Cruise Lines and Carnival, requiring passengers to be vaccinated as well as staff.

Around a quarter of adults in the US are yet to get their first dose of the vaccine, according to CDC data.