Southwest Airlines Requires Its US Employees Get COVID-19 Vaccine, Citing Federal Mandate

A group of Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft sit on the tarmac at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix, Arizona, on March 13, 2019. (Ralph Freso/Getty Images)

Southwest Airlines will require all of its U.S. employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

U.S.-based employees of the major carrier have to be fully vaccinated or have an approved religious, medical, or disability accommodation by Dec. 8 to keep their jobs.

Dallas-based airline said in a press release聽on Monday that it had conducted a “thorough review” of the new rules from the Biden administration, and determined that its contracts with the U.S. government “require full compliance with the federal vaccination directive.”

President Joe Biden signed an executive order in early September requiring all federal contractors to be vaccinated against COVID-19, the disease caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus. Contractors that don’t comply may lose out on government contracts.

Southwest, a major airline, is a federal contractor since its work involves flying the military in emergencies and carrying mail for the聽U.S. Postal Service.

“Southwest Airlines must join our industry peers in complying with the federal government’s COVID-19 vaccination directive,” Southwest Airlines Chairman and CEO Gary Kelly said in a statement. “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.”

Southwest has more than 54,000 employees.

Last week, rivals American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, and JetBlue announced similar vaccine mandates for their domestic staff.

United Airlines was the first U.S. carrier to mandate vaccines for its domestic employees, having announced its mandate in August. It聽confirmed on Sept. 29聽that it was going to terminate 593 of its employees who have chosen to not comply with the company鈥檚 vaccine mandate.

Delta Air Lines remains a major U.S. carrier that has chosen not to mandate COVID-19 vaccines for all its employees. It does require all new U.S. employees to be vaccinated, and requires that all unvaccinated Delta staff enrolled in its health care plan聽pay a $200 surcharge.

On Monday,聽Delta’s chief executive Ed Bastian said that even without a mandate, he expects well over 90 percent of employees will be fully vaccinated by Nov. 1. Currently, 84 percent are fully vaccinated.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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