Spirit Airlines chief executive Ted Christie told CNBC on Friday that the low-cost carrier has no power to require passengers be vaccinated against COVID-19 and the issue of mandatory vaccination is a “federal question” – one that the Biden administration has so far largely shied away from answering.
Christie, however, said Spirit is “strongly encouraging” its employees to take up the offer of a COVID-19 jab. While Spirit employees must wear a face mask on duty, the airline is encouraging staff to wear face coverings in other settings in line with updated CDC guidance.
“Rising case counts with regard to the delta variant obviously is a concern for everybody,” Christie told CNBC after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned that the Delta variant made it much more possible for even vaccinated people to be infected and transmit COVID-19.
“The answer to that, we believe, is to get your vaccine, make sure you get out there and get vaccinated,” Christie continued – highlighting the fact that the vaccines approved for use in the United States are remarkably effective in preventing serious illness, hospitalisations and death.
So far, the Florida-based airline hasn’t seen a dip in bookings as a result of the Delta variant – helped in part that the recovery has been led by leisure travelers and Spirit is a leisure airline.
So far, only Delta Air Lines and United have introduced compulsory COVID-19 vaccination for staff – but only for new employees. Existing staff are encouraged but not mandated to get inoculated, although both airlines say take up amongst staffers have been well above the national average.
As it stands, only Australian airline Qantas has raised the possibility of making vaccination a pre-requisite for international passengers. Chief executive Alan Joyce is in favour of barring unvaccinated passengers from international flights but considering that Australia’s tough border policies mean Qantas isn’t currently flying regularly scheduled international flights, the policy is largely academic.
Joyce has also suggested that vaccination should be made compulsory for passengers, although Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison disagrees, recently telling 3AW radio: “It’s the wrong decision for Australia. It’s just not how we do things’.
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