Alaska Air to require COVID-19 vaccine for employees

Alaska Air Group has told its 22,000 employees they will be required to get a COVID-19 vaccination.

SEATTLE — Alaska Air Group has told its 22,000 employees they will be required to get a COVID-19 vaccination.

There are some exceptions to the policy, which has shifted since last month, The Seattle Times reported.

In an email Thursday evening to all Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air employees, the Seattle-based company said employees will now be required to be fully vaccinated or approved for a reasonable accommodation.

Officials said the new policy would be in accordance with the White House executive order that requires all federal contractors to have their workers vaccinated. It replaces an Alaska policy which paid vaccinated employees $200 and required regular testing for others. At that time, Alaska said that 75% of its employees had been vaccinated.

A memo from Andy Schneider, Alaska’s senior vice president of people, said President Joe Biden’s executive order applies to Alaska Air’s subsidiaries as well as some contractors.

“After careful review of this order, we have determined that Alaska, Horizon and McGee employees (including certain contractors and vendors) do fall under this federal vaccine mandate due to our significant work for the federal government, alongside the other major U.S. airlines,” Schneider told employees in the email.

Alaska said the deadline by which employees must be fully vaccinated could be as early as Dec. 8. The airline is extending its offer of $200 to newly vaccinated employees until Dec. 1.

Alaska said employees can request “reasonable accommodation for sincerely held religious beliefs or a medical condition that prevents them from getting the vaccine.”

Employees who are granted an exemption for religious or medical reasons “may be subject to additional protocols such as weekly testing, continued masking and social distancing, modified work schedules or locations, delayed training class start dates, the inability to attend in-person events or unpaid leaves of absences,” Schneider’s email said.

United Airlines was the first major U.S. carrier to mandate vaccinations for all employees. New York-based JetBlue has also said it is implementing a similar policy.

This is an Associated Press article based on reporting by the Seattle Times.