Nearly 600 United Airlines employees face being fired after failing to comply with the firm’s Covid-19 vaccination policy.
The vast majority of its 67,000 US employees have provided proof of vaccination, as required by Monday.
“This was an incredibly difficult decision,” the company’s executives wrote in a memo to employees.
In August, the Chicago-based airline announced its Covid staffing requirements.
Its US employees had until Monday to upload proof of vaccination or the first of two jabs.
The 593 workers who refused a coronavirus vaccine and did not seek an exemption on religious or medical grounds now face job loss.
“Our rationale for requiring the vaccine for all United’s US-based employees was simple – to keep our people safe – and the truth is this: everyone is safer when everyone is vaccinated, and vaccine requirements work,” said the company’s CEO Scott Kirby and President Brett Hart on Tuesday.
“This was an extremely difficult decision,” they said, “but keeping our team safe has always been our first priority.”
Some of those employees may be retained if they have been vaccinated but have simply failed to submit proof of vaccination – or if they are vaccinated prior to formal meetings on the subject, according to the company.
On the dismissals, United stated that it would adhere to the rules outlined in union agreements. The procedure could take several weeks or months.
Another 2,000 employees have asked for an exemption from the policy.
It previously stated that those who are exempt would be placed on temporary, unpaid leave beginning October 2. However, those plans were put on hold after six employees filed a lawsuit challenging the policy.
According to Fiona Cincotta, market analyst at City Index, the “strict” policy is unlikely to be implemented by UK airlines.
United, like many other airlines, was severely impacted by pandemic-related travel restrictions.
At the height of the crisis, it announced that up to 36,000 employees would be furloughed.
It denied, however, that its vaccine policy would have an impact on future recruitment, despite the fact that vaccination will be a requirement for new hires.
It announced on Tuesday that it had received over 20,000 applications for approximately 2,000 flight attendant positions.
Few airlines in the United States have mandated vaccines for their employees. Delta Airlines, for example, has announced a monthly health insurance surcharge of $200 (£148) for those who are not vaccinated.