United reduces schedule with 4% of staff infected with Covid-19

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United was the first U.S. airline to implement a Covid vaccine mandate.
United was the first U.S. airline to implement a Covid vaccine mandate. Photo Credit: United Airlines

Omircon continues to place a strain on United Airlines' operations. But the carrier's vaccine mandate is saving lives, CEO Scott Kirby told company employees in a memo Tuesday. 

Currently, about 3,000 of United's approximately 70,000-person workforce are positive for Covid-19, Kirby wrote. 

With so many employees calling in sick, United has reduced its near-term schedule, the CEO said without offering specifics. As of 12 p.m. Eastern time on Tuesday, United had canceled 7% of its mainline flights for the day, according to FlightAware. 

None of United's vaccinated employees are currently hospitalized for Covid-19, according to Kirby. Furthermore, United has gone eight straight weeks with no Covid-related deaths among its vaccinated employees. 

Kirby didn't say whether any employees who received an exemption to United's vaccination mandate had died during that time period, but he did say that prior to the vaccine mandate, more than one United employee per week on average was dying of the virus. 

"Based on United's prior experience and nationwide data related to Covid fatalities among the unvaccinated, that means there are approximately eight to 10 United employees who are alive today because of our vaccine requirement," Kirby wrote. 

United imposed its vaccine mandate last September, making it the first carrier in the U.S. airline industry to implement such a policy. 

The Biden administration's executive order mandating that all private companies employing more than 100 people require staff to be vaccinated went into effect Monday, though it's not clear whether the policy will remain in place.

The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the executive order on Jan. 7, but has not yet issued a ruling on its legality.

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