United Airlines says just 593 of its 67,000 staff face being fired after refusing COVID vaccine by its September 27 deadline - with another 2,000 requesting a religious exemption

 United Airlines said on Tuesday that up to 593 of their 67,000 employees may face termination for not receiving the COVID vaccination.

Another 2,000 United employees have also requested a medical or religious exemption from getting the vaccine.

The firm's deadline was September 27, with United now in the process of firing unvaccinated workers who didn't request an exemption. 

Those who have requested exemptions only account for less than three percent of the airline's workforce, according to United officials, and will find out if their requests have been approved by October 15. 

In early August, the company became the first U.S. carrier to require COVID-19 vaccinations for all domestic employees, requiring proof of vaccination by Monday.  

At the time of that announcement, United said 90 per cent of its pilots and 80 per cent of flight attendants had already been vaccinated.

It did not release an average vaccination rate for its entire staff.  

The firm now says its overall staff vaccination rate - when exemption requests are removed - sits at 99 per cent. 

United Airlines announced on Tuesday that the 593 of 67,000 company employees will face termination if they do not get vaccinated

United became the first airline company to enforce the mandate for workers in early August

'This was an incredibly difficult decision but keeping our team safe has always been our first priority,' Chief Executive Scott Kirby and President Brett Hart told employees in a memo.

President Joe Biden was scheduled to meet with Kirby in Chicago to discuss employee vaccinations but it was called off.

He announced a mandate this month for federal workers to receive the vaccine.

He also said that workers do not comply will face disciplinary action, such as termination, and the mandate applies to companies with 100 or more employees.

'We’ve been patient, but our patience is wearing thin, and your refusal has cost all of us,' Biden said.

Brett Hart
Scott Kirby

United President Brett Hart, left, and CEO Scott Kirby, right, released a memo to their employees about ensuring their health and safety 

Company officials also said that workers could save their jobs if they got vaccinated before their formal termination meetings. 

The company had plans to put employees who received religious exemptions on temporary, unpaid personal leave from October 2. 

Those plans, however, have been put on hold until Oct. 15 because of a lawsuit challenging the policy.

Excluding those who have sought an exemption, United said more than 99 percent of U.S.-based employees have been vaccinated against COVID-19.

A company spokesperson said the airline plans to hire about 25,000 people over the next few years, and vaccination will be a condition of employment for all new hires.

United will also require students at its pilot training school to get vaccinated, the spokesperson said.

The company dismissed the notion that the vaccine requirement was deterring applicants for jobs at the air carrier.

President Joe Biden said that companies with 100 or more employees must require proof of vaccination from their workers

President Joe Biden said that companies with 100 or more employees must require proof of vaccination from their workers

United received 700 applications for about 400 job postings last month at a Denver career fair. 

Similarly, it has received more than 20,000 applications for about 2,000 open positions for flight attendants, the spokesperson said.   

A lawsuit was filed last week by six United employees from Fort Worth, Texas to block the mandate and to oppose the discrimination against those seeking exemptions for medical or religious reasons. 

 'United's actions have left Plaintiffs with the impossible of either taking the COVID-19 vaccine, at the expense of their religious beliefs and their health, or losing their livelihoods,' the lawsuit read.   

The plaintiffs also said in the suit that they were put on temporary unpaid leave until their exemptions were granted. 

About 97 percent of United employees have been vaccinated

About 97 percent of United employees have been vaccinated

Other airlines have also enforced COVID guidelines with employees and are following the mandate.

Delta Airlines plans on putting a $200 surcharge on the health plan of unvaccinated employees starting on November 1. 

American and Southwest Airlines have both requested alternatives and exemptions to the vaccine mandate being imposed by Biden.

Southwest Airlines, however, is offering a bonus to employees who show proof of vaccination by November 15.

Frontier and Hawaiian Airlines are complying with the mandate and are requiring proof of vaccination from employees in the near future. 

Frontier is requiring it by October 1 and Hawaiian Airlines is requiring it by November 1.  

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