American Airlines ends coronavirus pandemic leave for unvaccinated employees

American Airlines said it will end company-provided pandemic leave for unvaccinated employees who become infected with COVID-19.

Starting Oct. 1, any employee who isn't vaccinated and has to miss work due to COVID-19 will need to use earned sick time or medical leave while away. 

"We have heard from many team members that the full approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gives them additional peace of mind when they were previously hesitant to get vaccinated," the memo read.  

As a result, American said it had an even bigger "desire to encourage as many of our team members as possible to get vaccinated."   

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While the airline isn't mandating the vaccine yet, it is imploring its employees to get inoculated and to submit their vaccine card by Oct. 1 at the very latest. 

If employees are already vaccinated, they should submit their form "immediately." 

If they submit their proof of vaccine before the Oct. 1 deadline the airline will reward them. The airline said it can no longer offer an extra day of vacation in 2022 as an incentive, but it is offering "U.S.-based team members who submit their vaccination card during this new window an extra day of vacation pay in 2021." 

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The airline cautioned that it may change its policy and mandate vaccines for its staff later on "if the virus continues to mutate, cases increase and certain countries we serve require it."  

American's decision follows a similar move by Alaska Airlines, which announced last week that unvaccinated employees will no longer receive quarantine pay for absences due to COVID-19 exposure or infection. They will also have to participate in a vaccine education program. Alaska is now requiring new hires to be vaccinated. 

Delta Air Lines announced earlier that unvaccinated employees on Delta’s account-based health care plan will get hit with a $200 monthly surcharge starting in November. 

"This surcharge will be necessary to address the financial risk the decision to not vaccinate is creating for our company," Delta CEO Bastian said in a memo to employees last month. 

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