United Airlines says its unvaccinated pilots are costing the carrier nearly $3 million a month

United Airlines pilots walk through Newark Liberty International Airport
United Airlines pilots walk through Newark Liberty International Airport Niall Carson – PA Images/Getty Images
  • United Airlines said its unvaccinated pilots are costing the company $US1.4 ($AU2) million every two weeks in paid leave.
  • The carrier explained vaccinated pilots “refuse to risk their safety” by flying with unvaccinated colleagues.
  • United is challenging a lawsuit brought forth by employees claiming the company’s vaccine mandate is discriminatory.

United Airlines is spending nearly $US3 ($AU4) million a month in paid leave for unvaccinated pilots, the carrier said in a court filing on Friday, as Bloomberg reported earlier.

United Airlines said vaccinated pilots are hesitant to fly because they “refuse to risk their safety” by flying with unvaccinated pilots, costing the carrier about $US1.4 ($AU2) million every two weeks in paid leave, said the company in a Texas federal court where it is battling a lawsuit against its employee vaccine requirement. According to United, the losses are unlikely to be recuperated even if it wins the lawsuit, which was brought forth by six United employees in September who claim the company’s strict vaccine mandate is discriminatory and punitive.

Earlier this month, US District Judge Mark Pittman ruled United had to temporarily halt its plan to put unvaccinated employees who request a medical or religious exemption on unpaid leave, effectively keeping those workers on the company payroll through October 26, which is when the judge’s order is set to expire.

While $US3 ($AU4) million a month is small compared to United’s size and overall operating revenue, it is still a loss that adds to the financial woes created by the coronavirus pandemic. According to United’s financial earnings for 2020, the company recorded a $US7.1 ($AU9) billion net loss for the year, though the company said in its 2021 third-quarter earnings that it is on track to meet its targets for 2022.