American Airlines is ending pandemic leave for unvaccinated workers, becoming the latest carrier to step up incentives for employee COVID-19 vaccines

Flight attendant
  • American Airlines will stop giving a special pandemic leave to unvaccinated employees in October.
  • This means those workers will need to use their own sick days or medical leave if they get COVID-19.
  • American is now the latest carrier to encourage workers to get the vaccine through policy changes.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

American Airlines is taking another step to encourage workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

The company told workers in a memo late last week that it will stop offering a special pandemic leave to unvaccinated workers starting next month.

“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,” the company said in the memo, which was viewed by Insider.

With their pandemic leave gone, unvaccinated employees at American Airlines who get COVID-19 will have to dip into their own sick days or medical leave to take time off of work. Pandemic leave will still be available to vaccinated workers beyond the policy change, which takes effect on October 1.

“While we are not requiring team members to get the vaccine at this time, we may do so later if the virus continues to mutate, cases increase and certain countries we serve require it,” the memo continued. “Our hope is that all American Airlines team members elect to get vaccinated, with the exception of those who are not eligible to get the vaccine for documented medical or religious reasons.”

The move makes American Airlines the latest carrier to change a policy in an attempt to encourage workers to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Alaska Airlines and its sister carrier, Horizon Air, recently took similar action. They stopped offering paid time off for unvaccinated employees who get COVID-19, so those workers now have to use their own sick leave or vacation time to isolate if they contract the virus.

Delta Air Lines recently said that its workers either need to get the COVID-19 shot or pay an extra $US200 ($AU269) per month for health insurance. The company also changed its COVID-19 pay protection policy so that it’s only available to fully vaccinated workers experiencing breakthrough cases. Delta Air Lines had initially required the COVID-19 vaccine for new hires only while leaving current workers exempt from the mandate. In August, United Airlines became the first US airline to require that all of its workers be vaccinated against COVID-19.