Unvaccinated American Airlines flight attendants won't immediately be fired if they miss deadline, union says

Flight attendant union's contract 'provides for a process that must be followed before anyone can be terminated'

American Airlines' flight attendant union says its members won't immediately be fired if they aren't vaccinated against the coronavirus by the carrier's November deadline. 

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Following a meeting with management and labor leaders, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) told members that officials are "exploring accommodations that would allow employees to continue to work."   

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In the Monday notice, the APFA even called out its rival, United, which mandated that its 67,000 U.S.-based employees had a hard deadline of Sept. 27 for getting vaccinated or risk losing their job – barring some exemptions.  

United, which has taken the strongest pro-vaccination stance among U.S. airlines, confirmed last week that less than 1% of its staff, or 232 employees, were in the process of being fired for not meeting the deadline. 

American Airlines fleet of airplanes with passengers at O'Hare Airport passing through corridor. (iStock / iStock)

American Airlines 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 said in a notice to its members. 

The APFA added that its contract "provides for a process that must be followed before anyone can be terminated." 

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Earlier this month, American announced that it was issuing a vaccine mandate in order to comply with new rules from the Biden administration requiring companies with federal contracts to have a fully vaccinated staff. American, like its rivals, provides special flights, cargo-hauling and other services for the government, which makes them government contractors. 

According to the APFA's notice, management said employees had until Nov. 24 to complete their vaccination shot regimen although "employees who cannot be vaccinated due to a qualified disability or sincerely held religious belief may request a reasonable accommodation."

The union added that "management committed to complying with their legal obligations to review and consider each accommodation request on a case-by-case basis and to offer reasonable accommodations where appropriate."  

AMERICAN AIRLINES TAKES DIFFERENT APPROACH TO EMPLOYEE VACCINE REQUIREMENTS

Prior to Biden's order, American wasn't requiring its employees to get inoculated, although it was "strongly encouraging" them to do so, going so far as to offer rewards for those who get the jab.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.