American Airlines chief rejects pilots’ bid to dodge Covid vaccine, takes on cruise industry

·3 min read

American Airlines President Robert Isom said Friday that the company won’t bow to the pilots’ union request to allow for “alternatives” to the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for employees and made it clear he didn’t appreciate the cruise industry claiming its safer than flying.

“The [Biden] executive order doesn’t allow for that,” Isom said in an interview with The Miami Herald, adding that AA’s employee vaccine requirement is in compliance with the executive order from President Joe Biden that says government contractors must require all their employees to be fully vaccinated by Dec. 8.

“Our team members need to be vaccinated,” Isom said. “It’s really important for our business, for our company, to get the pandemic under control. We want every one of our team members to be vaccinated and, equally important, we want every one of our team members to have a job and continue to work at American.”

The president added that American Airlines will be checking proof of vaccination for all employees starting Nov. 24. Isom said most employees had been vaccinated but didn’t offer the percentage.

The union representing American Airlines pilots canceled a protest planned for Tuesday at Miami International Airport, citing more immediate challenges over the vaccine mandate.

“Rescheduling this event will enable your union to better focus on the short-term challenges related to the vaccine mandate,” the union said in an email to members.

Capt. Eric Ferguson, the union’s president, said in a statement to members that they had proposed “alternative means of compliance” to the vaccine mandate, such as weekly testing and allowing those previously infected with Covid to continue to work.

“This would ensure the same level of safety while preventing the destabilization of our industry on the eve of the upcoming holiday season,” he wrote.

In September, the Allied Pilots Association, which represents 13,800 American Airlines pilots, called for members to participate in “informational picketing,” beginning at MIA. The pilots’ union said that the company’s management, “repeatedly demonstrated its inability to run a reliable airline,” and said that the company had reached a record number of reassignments for pilots and consistently failed to provide adequate food and accommodation for pilots.

The union told members that it had not yet rescheduled a date for picketing.

Isom rejected recent claims made by multiple cruise industry executives that taking a cruise is safer than flying.

“The safest form of transportation out there is absolutely flying. We’ve proven that over and over and over again so that comparison doesn’t play too well,” he said.

“And by the way, we need to make sure the passengers get to cruise lines in a healthy condition,” he pointed out, highlighting that flying tends to go hand in hand with cruises since passengers often travel by air to ports to embark.

Isom acknowledged in the Herald interview that the airline had issues in the beginning of the summer, but chalked it up to bad weather events and temporary issues with fully staffing the airline again after the near shutdown the company saw due to the coronavirus pandemic.

He highlighted that domestic leisure travel has returned to pre-pandemic levels, which he says is a result of the COVID-19 vaccine and airlines doing extensive research and messaging to prove to passengers that flying is safe because of the near constant air flow in planes.

Meanwhile, Isom said that while the airline has had to adapt rapidly to the changing nature of travel due to the pandemic, he’s learned more about customer preferences and some changes are here to stay, including no change fees.

“We’ve done a really nice job at identifying what customers want and making sure that we’re appealing to them,” he said of the airline realizing that the losses they experience from change fees doesn’t outweigh the customer preference. “We think we’re doing the right thing for our customer base and also ultimately financially for the airline.”

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting