US airline staff could ‘end up on the street’ for refusing vaccines, pilot tells RT

Follow RT on With details of President Biden’s private-sector vaccine mandate revealed, commercial pilot Jason Kunisch told RT that such mandates already risk cratering the aviation industry, which is dealing with “severe” staffing shortages.

The Department of Labor’s Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) on Thursday revealed the details of the Biden administration’s controversial vaccine order for private companies. The order, which OSHA is considering making permanent, requires all companies with more than 100 staff to force their employees to get vaccinated by early January or submit to regular testing and to masking. However, federal contractors – including airline staff – will have to be vaccinated by early December to comply with a separate Biden administration mandate.

Jason Kunisch is a commercial pilot, and has been flying professionally for two decades. He told RT that flight “crews right now are extremely stressed.” Air traffic controllers (ATCs) are already working six day weeks to make up for staff lost to mandatory vaccines, and Kunisch says that as many as 15% of the remaining ATCs in the US may walk out over Biden’s orders. 

Kunisch said staff are dreading the possibility of having to “violate” their own conscience in order to get the vaccine, or potentially, “lose your livelihood or lose your career.”

“A lot of people fear, and I think rightly so, they could end up on the street,” he said, as neither the airline companies nor the Biden administration has made any accommodation for staff who refuse the jab.

Staff shortages have been blamed for a deluge of flight delays and cancelations over the weekend and during preceding weeks. American Airlines canceled more than 2,000 flights last weekend, two weeks after Southwest Airlines canceled a similar number in a single weekend. Both airlines cited non-specific staffing issues and bad weather, but reports suggested staff had staged “sickouts” over the looming vaccine deadline, and public protests by pilots lent credence to these stories.

Also on American Airlines cancels 262 more flights, taking total to more than 2,000 amid staffing shortages & unfavorable weather

Despite the apparent discontent, a recent Harvard study funded by the airline industry suggested that, with proper air-conditioning on board, and when passengers wear masks, the risk of catching Covid-19 while flying is “very low,” and flying during a pandemic can be safer than shopping for groceries.

“We’ve flown through this pandemic for the last 18 months,” Kunisch told RT. “And air crews all over the world have done a fantastic job navigating it.”

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