Southwest Airlines will require all of its U.S. employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
U.S.-based employees of the major carrier have to be fully vaccinated or have an approved religious, medical, or disability accommodation by Dec. 8 to keep their jobs.
The Dallas-based airline said in a press release on Monday that it had conducted a “thorough review” of the new rules from the Biden administration, and determined that its contracts with the U.S. government “require full compliance with the federal vaccination directive.”
President Joe Biden signed an executive order in early September requiring all federal contractors to be vaccinated against COVID-19, the disease caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus. Contractors that don’t comply may lose out on government contracts.
Southwest, a major airline, is a federal contractor since its work involves flying the military in emergencies and carrying mail for the U.S. Postal Service.
“Southwest Airlines must join our industry peers in complying with the federal government’s COVID-19 vaccination directive,” Southwest Airlines Chairman and CEO Gary Kelly said in a statement. “I encourage all Southwest Employees to meet the federal directive, as quickly as possible, since we value every individual and want to ensure job security for all.”
Southwest has more than 54,000 employees.
Last week, rivals American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, and JetBlue announced similar vaccine mandates for their domestic staff.
United Airlines was the first U.S. carrier to mandate vaccines for its domestic employees, having announced its mandate in August. It confirmed on Sept. 29 that it was going to terminate 593 of its employees who have chosen to not comply with the company’s vaccine mandate.
Delta Air Lines remains a major U.S. carrier that has chosen not to mandate COVID-19 vaccines for all its employees. It does require all new U.S. employees to be vaccinated, and requires that all unvaccinated Delta staff enrolled in its health care plan pay a $200 monthly surcharge.
On Monday, Delta’s chief executive Ed Bastian said that even without a mandate, he expects well over 90 percent of employees will be fully vaccinated by Nov. 1. Currently, 84 percent are fully vaccinated.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.