Southwest Airlines became the latest carrier to mandate all employees be vaccinated against COVID-19. File Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo
Oct. 5 (UPI) -- Southwest Airlines has added its name to a growing list of carriers to mandate all employees to be vaccinated against the coronavirus pandemic.
The Dallas-based company said in a brief statement Monday that all of its 54,000 employees have to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, or receive either religious, medical or disability accommodation, by Dec. 8 to remain employed with the airline.
"Southwest Airlines must join our industry peers in complying with the federal government's COVID-19 vaccination directive," said Gary Kelly, Southwest Airlines chairman and chief executive. "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."
United Airlines became the first major carrier to institute a vaccine mandate in August and was followed by Hawaiian Airlines and several others.
The move by Southwest follows President Joe Biden last month mandating all federal workers to be vaccinated against the virus as well as directing businesses with 100 or more employees to do likewise.
In its statement, Southwest said it made the decision to issue the vaccine mandate after "a thorough review" of the president's action plan and determined that its contracts with the U.S. government require full compliance with the federal vaccination directive.
Delta Air Lines has been a notable holdout in the airline industry for not issuing a vaccine mandate.
Instead, the company has encouraged employees to become inoculated against COVID-19 by charging unvaccinated workers an extra $200 a month for health insurance.