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Southwest CEO says he by no means needed a Covid vaccine mandate however Biden compelled his hand

Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly informed CNBC on Tuesday he believes companies shouldn’t impose Covid vaccine mandates on their workers, however he stated his firm is doing so to adjust to federal rules put in place by the Biden administration.

“I’ve by no means been in favor of firms imposing that sort of a mandate. I am not in favor of that. By no means have been,” Kelly stated in an interview on “Squawk on the Street.” “However the government order from President Biden mandates that every one federal workers after which all federal contractors, which covers all the key airways, should have a [vaccine] mandate … in place by Dec. 8, so we’re working by means of that.”

Southwest stated final week that its 56,000 workers wanted to be vaccinated towards Covid by Dec. Eight with a purpose to hold working on the airline below the federal mandate. Southwest’s announcement got here just a few days after different carriers — together with American AirlinesAlaska Airlines and JetBlue Airways — knowledgeable workers about the necessity to adhere to federal vaccine guidelines.

In August, earlier than the Biden administration’s motion, United Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines instituted Covid vaccine necessities for his or her staffs. United stated earlier this month that greater than 96% of its 67,000 U.S. workers have shared proof of vaccination after its late September deadline.

Southwest began to supply incentives comparable to further pay to spur uptake of the coronavirus vaccine in mid-September, following within the footsteps of different carriers comparable to Delta Air Lines, American and United.

Delta later stated that starting Nov. 1 unvaccinated employees must pay an additional $200 per 30 days for firm medical health insurance.

Kelly famous Southwest’s efforts to encourage workers to obtain a Covid shot, including that people are also in a position to apply for non secular and medical exemptions.

“My objective, clearly, is that nobody loses their job. The target right here, clearly, is to enhance well being and security, not for individuals to lose their jobs,” stated Kelly, who’s retiring in February and handing the reins to three-decade Southwest veteran Bob Jordan.

Kelly’s feedback Tuesday come as Southwest faces warmth for widespread flight cancellations in latest days and Monday’s sharp decline in the company’s stock price.

There have been indicators that Southwest’s operations have been enhancing Tuesday, as 87 flights, or simply 2% of its schedule, have been canceled. Its shares closed up about 1%.

From Saturday by means of Monday Southwest scrapped about 2,200 flights, with greater than half that quantity on Sunday alone.

In accordance with Southwest, the cancellations will be traced to unhealthy climate and points with air visitors management in Florida. That precipitated planes and crews to be within the flawed place, escalating into extra pervasive issues. In August, the airline decreased its schedule in hopes of fixing operational struggles over the summer time that recurrently led to dozens of cancellations.

Prior to now couple of days, the corporate pushed again on hypothesis that the latest disruptions have been associated to employees calling out sick as a strategy to protest its resolution to institute a Covid vaccine requirement.

Kelly additionally denied that was the case in Tuesday’s CNBC interview: “We’ve got some very robust views on that matter, however that is not what was at subject with Southwest over the weekend.”

Kelly has repeatedly urged his workers to get vaccinated. “[But] I don’t imagine it’s as much as me, as CEO of an organization, to mandate to folks that they get vaccinated,” he stated in an worker message final month. “That is my private philosophy and my private perception.”

CNBC’s Leslie Josephs contributed to this report.


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