Alaska Airlines and JetBlue are joining United Airlines in requiring employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19, just as the Biden administration steps up pressure on major US carriers to require the shots. White House coronavirus adviser Jeffrey Zients talked to the CEOs of American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and Southwest Airlines about vaccine mandates, according to three people familiar with the situation, the AP reports. Airlines are large employers that fall under President Biden's sweeping order that companies with more than 100 workers require employees to be vaccinated or undergo weekly testing for the virus.
They are also government contractors, and so could fall under a Dec. 8 deadline that contractors enforce vaccination requirements—without the testing option. Alaska Airlines and JetBlue Airways said Friday they will require employees to be vaccinated as soon as Dec. 8 because they will be treated as federal contractors. "This means employees may no longer opt-in for regular testing and masking in lieu of getting the vaccine," Alaska Airlines said in a memo to employees.
Delta said it was still evaluating Biden's order. The airline previously said it will require vaccination or weekly testing and impose surcharges on unvaccinated employees. That would meet the Biden test for large employers but not the stricter rules for federal contractors. American and Southwest say they are studying Biden's order. Both are under pressure from their pilot groups not to require vaccinations but to instead offer options including testing. United Airlines took an early stance to require vaccination. (Bills in Congress would tighten requirements for passengers on domestic flights.)