United Airlines CEO: ‘We’re prepared’ for passenger vaccine mandate if Biden says so

Scott Kirby says mandate for travelers could 'burden' vaccinated people

United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby said Sunday his company is "prepared" to require COVID-19 vaccinations among passengers if President Biden says so.

Appearing on CBS’ "Face the Nation," Kirby said he believes a vaccine mandate for travelers would place undue "burden" on vaccinated people, but he would nevertheless support a mandate if the Biden administration determined it was necessary.

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"I think the administration’s doing a really admirable job of trying to find all the levers to push to get the whole country vaccinated," he said. "I think the administration’s perspective has been that getting people vaccinated at work, it’s a one-shot, and you can really get a high percentage of the country, as opposed to making it a burden on people that are vaccinated – every time you get on a plane, a train, any kind of public transportation – to prove that you’re vaccinated."

Biden unveiled a new plan this month that directs the Labor Department to require all businesses with 100 or more employees to mandate the COVID-19 vaccine or weekly tests, and he signed an executive order requiring all federal government employees to be vaccinated.

Kirby cheered the move and said it would help reinvigorate air travel, which he said he didn’t expect to rebound until January.

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"For now, I think their approach of focusing on the employment and focusing on work is probably the right way to go," he added. "But they get great data and science, and if they tell us that they want us to check everyone we’re prepared to do that as well."

In August, United Airlines became the first major airline to mandate the vaccine among its 67,000 U.S. employees. Kirby told CNN last week that about 90% of the company's employees had shown proof of their vaccination to the airline and that very few employees had resigned over the mandate. He also said he didn't think a vaccine mandate for passengers would greatly increase vaccination rates and that such a decision would have to be federally mandated.