Oct. 20, 2021 -- American Airlines won’t automatically fire employees who aren’t vaccinated by the airline’s deadline, and Southwest Airlines won’t place unvaccinated employees on unpaid leave, according to recent updates by airline officials and unions.

The Association of Professional Flight Attendants, the union that represents American Airlines’ flight attendants, said on Monday that unvaccinated workers won’t be fired right away or taken off flights if they don’t submit proof of vaccination by the Nov. 24 deadline, according to Insider.

“For those Flight Attendants who remain unvaccinated and do not receive an accommodation, you will not be automatically removed from service or terminated from employment on the deadline for compliance,” the union wrote in a letter to members.

“Our Contract provides for a process that must be followed before anyone can be terminated,” the group wrote.

During a meeting with airline management and union leaders last week, American executives said they were “exploring all possible options concerning accommodations” but didn’t add specifics. Airline leaders also said they would review each exemption request on a case-by-case basis and offer accommodations where appropriate.

“Management indicated that, unlike the approach taken by United, they were exploring accommodations that would allow employees to continue to work,” the union wrote.

American confirmed to employees on Tuesday that they can continue to work if they are granted an exemption or if their exemption requests are pending, according to CNBC. Choosing not to be vaccinated and not receiving an exemption could still result in termination, the airline said, and the company isn’t planning voluntary leave or early retirement packages for those who choose not to get vaccinated.

How Do COVID-19 mRNA Vaccines Work?Some of the COVID-19 vaccines are known as mRNA shots. How are they different from traditional vaccines? And do they contain the real virus?189


SPEAKER: How does a COVID-19

mRNA vaccine work?

COVID vaccines are now


Some of the COVID-19 vaccines

are mRNA vaccines, but what does

this mean?

mRNA vaccines are

different from traditional


mRNA vaccines don't expose you

to any real virus instead,

they're made with messenger

Ribonucleic Acid or mRNA.

This is a type of molecule that

gives instructions to the cell

for how to make different kinds

of proteins.

mRNA molecules are

a natural part of our cells

and how our bodies work.

Researchers have been working

with mRNA vaccines

for many years.

They are made more easily

and safely in a lab

than a vaccine that uses

a virus.

Because of this they can also

be made faster.

The COVID-19 mRNA vaccines

have passed many tests in labs

and in thousands of people,

and meet strict standards

from the FDA.

So how do these vaccines work?

First, a COVID-19 mRNA vaccine

is injected into a muscle

in your upper arm.

Some muscle cells take the mRNA

instructions in the vaccine

and make a harmless piece

of a protein called

a spike protein.

This protein is found

on the outside of the SARS-CoV-2

virus that causes COVID-19.

The muscle cells then destroy

the instructions for how to make

the spike protein.

The mRNA never goes

into the nucleus of your cells

where your DNA is stored.

The newly made spike protein now

sits on the surface

of the muscle cells.

Your immune system senses

the spike protein

as a foreign threat to destroy,

it starts making antibodies

to fight anything

with that spike protein on it.

This will help your body's

immune system recognize

and fight the real virus if it

ever shows up.

It's like recognizing someone

by the hat they wear.

Your body is then

prepared to spot COVID-19

and fight it off before it grows

in your body's cells.

Fast facts to remember

about COVID-19 mRNA vaccines.

They help get your body

ready to fight off the COVID-19

virus before it makes you sick,

they don't use

any live, dead, or weak virus,

they can't give you COVID-19,

they don't affect your DNA.

Want to learn more,

go to cdc.gov to find more

information about mRNA vaccines.

You can also learn more about

how the vaccines were approved

at fda.gov.



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“We want all of our team members to be vaccinated so they can continue working at American,” the airline said, according to a memo reviewed by CNBC. “We need our entire team to run the airline in 2022 and beyond and are not looking to reduce headcount.”

The Nov. 24 vaccination deadline falls one day before the Thanksgiving holiday -- one of the busiest travel times of the year. American has been operating with a reduced workforce since pandemic cuts were made in 2020.

Reductions in pilots, flight attendants, or other airline workers during the holiday rush could affect airlines and lead to delayed and canceled flights, Insider reported. Southwest Airlines, for instance, was forced to cancel flights after a weather event and air traffic control issues.

Southwest also announced that it has scrapped a plan to put unvaccinated workers with pending exemptions on unpaid leave, according to CNBC. Under President Joe Biden’s mandate for federal contractors, employees must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Dec. 8 unless they receive medical or religious exemptions.

“This is a change from what was previously communicated,” Steve Goldberg, senior vice president of operations and hospitality for Southwest, told employees in a Friday memo, which was reviewed by CNBC.

“Initially, we communicated that these employees would be put on unpaid leave and that is no longer the case,” he wrote.

Southwest employees will be able to work and receive pay, but they will be required to follow masking and social distancing guidelines if their exemption requests are pending.

Southwest is giving employees until Nov. 24 to complete their vaccinations or apply for an exemption. If a worker’s request is denied, the airline will work with the employee “on meeting the requirements (vaccine or valid accommodation),” CNBC reported. Employees can also reapply for an exemption if they have new information for the company to consider.

American and Southwest require new hires to be vaccinated, according to CNBC.

United Airlines told staff that they would be put on unpaid leave if they received exemptions, CNBC reported. The airline is in the process of firing 232 employees who refused to get vaccinated, but a federal judge in Texas has temporarily blocked the airline from moving forward with the plan.

Delta Air Lines hasn’t yet started a vaccine mandate to comply with Biden’s order but said last week that about 90% of its 80,000 workers were vaccinated, Insider reported. In August, the airline announced that unvaccinated staff would pay $200 more per month for company health insurance, which is slated to start in November.

WebMD Health News Brief


Insider: “American Airlines flight attendants union tells employees they won’t be automatically fired if they refuse to get vaccinated by the airline’s deadline.”

Association of Professional Flight Attendants: “COVID-19 Vaccine Update #2,” Oct. 18, 2021.

CNBC: “Southwest drops plan to put unvaccinated staff on unpaid leave starting in December.”

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