The Allied Pilots Association (APA) represents around 15,000 pilots who work for American Airlines. The union is reacting to potential vaccine mandates that could affect the airline industry.
In a letter addressed to Congress, the White House, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and several other federal agencies, APA President Eric Ferguson said that many of the pilots he represents "are unable to undergo vaccination for documented medical reasons, while others are reluctant to get vaccinated based upon concerns about the potential for career-ending side effects."
Because of the legitimate concerns of APA pilots, Ferguson is asking President Joe Biden to grant airline pilots an exemption to the pending COVID-19 vaccine mandate that he announced earlier this month.
"To ensure commercial aviation's ongoing viability by avoiding a scenario in which airlines are forced to either offer unpaid leaves of absence or, worse, implement mass terminations of unvaccinated pilots, it is essential that an alternate means of compliance with the Executive Order be made available for professional pilots," wrote Ferguson.
Ferguson then called on public health regulators and lawmakers to remember that pilots play a crucial role in the travel industry. Given this, they should be given "an alternate means of minimizing the risk of spreading COVID-19," such as presenting proof of natural immunity to COVID-19 or regular testing. This will allow unvaccinated pilots to keep flying.
The union boss pointed out that pilots for commercial airlines already have to adhere to strict medical requirements. Adding experimental and side effect-riddled COVID-19 vaccines to the mix could complicate matters, leaving many pilots unable to fly planes.
The FAA also prohibits pilots from operating an aircraft within 48 hours after receiving each dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Such a requirement could delay flights significantly.
"In a situation where we became instantly short say 10 or 15 percent, on manning, the viability of this company would be at risk," said Ferguson during an interview.
"We've been getting input from the membership, and we've received more input since Sept. 9th," said Ferguson. He explained that about 70 percent of his pilots are fully vaccinated.
"About another 30 percent, for whatever reason at this point, have not taken the vaccine," said Ferguson. "And I suspect that 10 or 15 percent – or 30 percent – may never take it, no matter what."
"We are not pro or anti-vaccine," explained the union boss. "We are not anti-vaccine mandate necessarily. But as it pertains to your job, you need to have the option to not get vaccinated."
The APA is just one of many groups all over the U.S. that have, in recent days, announced their opposition to the COVID-19 vaccine mandates sweeping over the country.
Fortunately, APA is not alone in the airline industry advocating for the right of airline pilots to make their own choices regarding their health. (Related: Employees file suit against United Airlines over "draconian" COVID-19 vaccine mandate.)
The Southwest Airlines Pilots' Association (SWAPA), which represents over 9,000 pilots working for the company, argued that each pilot should have the right to decide whether to get vaccinated.
"Our pilots have shouldered an elevated risk of illness from the start of the pandemic, including well before the vaccines became available," wrote the union in a statement. "And we are hopeful that our contributions are recognized and accounted for as we seek approval of an alternate means of compliance and an operationally feasible implementation period."
Like the APA, SWAPA is also concerned that the federal vaccine mandate could worsen an already significant labor shortage "and create serious operational problems for Southwest Airlines and its peers."
These problems would escalate during the upcoming holiday period, when many airlines generate a substantial portion of their annual revenue.
"Our nation's airlines, and the traveling public, cannot afford significant service disruptions due to labor shortages," wrote the APA.
Meanwhile, United Airlines and Delta Airlines have both expressed their support for vaccine mandates.
Delta recently announced that around 82 percent of its employees are already fully vaccinated. The company is offering bribes for the remainder to get vaccinated. Those who choose to remain unvaccinated will have to pay an additional $200 per month to the company's health plan.
United Airlines announced that employees have until Monday, Oct. 4. to get vaccinated. According to CEO Scott Kirby, nearly 99 percent of his 67,000 employees are already fully vaccinated. He is ready to fire the remaining one percent that continues to hold out.
Frontier Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines have also mandated COVID-19 vaccines for their workforces.
Learn more about how vaccine mandates affect industries like the airline and travel industries by reading the latest articles at Vaccines.news.