Airline ending ‘special COVID pay’ for exposed or sick unvaccinated workers


In a statement released Thursday, the carrier announced new protocol for unvaccinated employees, including testing requirements, a mandatory “vaccine education program” and the end of paid time off for isolation or quarantine. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

(NEXSTAR) – Alaska Airlines is hoping to encourage workers to get vaccinated by taking away “special COVID pay” for unvaccinated employees who become exposed or infected.

“We believe having as many people as possible vaccinated is the best path for protection against COVID-19 and we will continue to strongly encourage our employees to be vaccinated,” the airline wrote in a statement.

In a statement released Thursday, the carrier announced a new protocol for unvaccinated employees, including testing requirements and a mandatory “vaccine education program.” But the airline’s efforts also include taking away paid time off benefits for unvaccinated staff members who cannot come to work after becoming sickened with, or exposed to, the coronavirus.

The carrier further claimed that approximately 75% of its employees—or at least 75% of those who disclosed their status—are currently COVID-vaccinated. But Alaska Airlines feels there is “more work to do,” necessitating the new measures.

To that end, employees who provide proof of vaccination will be compensated with a one-time $200 payment, Alaska Airlines confirmed. All new hires must also be vaccinated prior to joining the company.

Alaska Airlines does not currently require employees to get vaccinated, unlike United, Frontier and Hawaiian airlines. A spokesperson for Alaska, however, had recently disclosed that executives were “exploring all options to keep our employees safe” and would be adjusting its policies as needed.

News of Alaska Airlines’ latest policy comes only a week after Delta Air Lines announced that unvaccinated employees would be charged an additional monthly fee of $200 for their healthcare plans.

“This surcharge will be necessary to address the financial risk the decision to not vaccinate is creating for our company,” wrote Delta CEO Ed Bastian, citing the expenses associated with medical care and hospitalization for COVID-19 patients.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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