United Airlines (NASDAQ: UAL) CEO Scott Kirby is inclined to make Covid-19 vaccines mandatory for workers and is urging other companies to do so as well.
Many other carriers and companies have expressed a different opinion on the matter. United had over 60,000 U.S. employees in December of 2020 and newly reinstated 17,000 workers who had been laid off last year.
“The worst thing that I believe I will ever do in my career is the letters that I have written to the surviving family members of coworkers that we have lost to the coronavirus,” Kirby said at an employee town hall Thursday, a transcript of which was reviewed by CNBC. “And so, for me, because I have confidence in the safety of the vaccine – and I recognize it’s controversial – I think the right thing to do is for United Airlines, and for other companies, to require the vaccines and to make them mandatory.”
Kirby did recognize there would be procedural obstacles in getting employees vaccinated.
Airline staff are essential workers and should be among the first to receive the vaccine. However, the distribution thus far has been tedious and disorganized as the doses are limited.
“I don’t think United will get away with and can realistically be the only company that requires vaccines and makes them mandatory,” he said. “We need some others. We need some others to show leadership. Particularly in the healthcare industry.”
United released a note to staff informing them of its work with government officials and health-care providers to assemble distribution centers within its hubs.