United Airlines has enacted one of the strongest COVID-19 vaccine mandates from a private employer seen yet, giving its workers until late October to get vaccinated, or face being fired.
The new policy was explained to staff in a memo sent Friday, and will be effective for the airline's 67,000 U.S.-based employees.
Workers will have upload proof of vaccination within five weeks of the FDA giving full approval to said vaccine or by Oct. 25 – whichever comes first. Those who don't will be fired.
Staff who upload vaccine proof by Sept. 20 will receive a full day's pay. Exemptions will be made for some health or religious reasons.
United becomes the first major carrier to mandate the vaccine. Delta, the largest operator from Minneapolis-St. Paul international, implemented a new policy in May requiring new hires to show proof of vaccination, but hasn't yet expanded the requirement to existing employees.
However, where one major carrier goes, others tend to follow as competition intensifies to attract returning travelers.
United doesn't have as large a presence in MSP, but does run regular direct flights to Chicago, Denver, Houston, Newark-Liberty, San Francisco, and Washington-Dulles.
"We know some of you will disagree with this decision to require the vaccine for all United employees,” said United CEO Scott Kirby and President Brett Hart in a memo, which was obtained by the New York Times. said Friday in an employee note.
“But, we have no greater responsibility to you and your colleagues than to ensure your safety when you’re at work, and the facts are crystal clear: everyone is safer when everyone is vaccinated."