Hawaiian Airlines dropping employee vaccination mandate

Sep. 8—Hawaiian Airlines is removing COVID-19 vaccinations as a requirement for employment effective Oct. 1 and dispensing with other elements of its COVID-19 safety policy.

Hawaiian Airlines is removing vaccinations as a requirement for employment effective Oct. 1 and dispensing with other elements of its COVID-19 safety policy.

Hawaiian President and CEO Peter Ingram announced the changes Wednesday in a message to employees, where he said that those who chose to take a leave of absence as part of the transitional period testing program will be offered an opportunity to return to work. Ingram said those who separated employment with Hawaiian Airlines because of the vaccination requirement rather than accepting a leave will not be reinstated but can apply for open positions as new hires.

Hawaiian spokesperson Alex Da Silva said 96 % of the airline's employees got vaccinated by Jan. 5, 2022, the date when the policy took effect.

Da Silva said fewer than 200 employees chose to take leave or received a reasonable accommodation, and they are being invited to return. Fewer than 100 employees separated from the company, he added.

Da Silva said Hawaiian ended 2019 with 7, 437 employees and currently has more than 7, 000.

Ingram said a variety of factors led Hawaiian to introduce its COVID-19 vaccination policy, "including the level of cases in the places we serve, pressure on health care resources and the damage COVID had inflicted on our business."

Since then, Ingram said conditions and scientific consensus and guidance have evolved. He said high rates of vaccination and infection-induced immunity have reduced the risk, along with the development of therapeutic measures.

"While we are removing the requirement, vaccinations are highly effective at preventing severe illness, and we encourage all employees to stay up to date, " Ingram said.

He acknowledged that the vaccination requirement has been "an emotional and divisive issue within our team."

"I know—from the many conversations I've had with you over the past year—that some will be unhappy with the ending of the policy just as some were with its implementation in the first place, " Ingram said.