Air Canada Mandates Employee Vaccination
Air Canada has issued a new policy that mandates all employees must receive the Covid-19 vaccination. The requirement to fulfill this obligation must be accomplished by October 30, 2021. This complies with the regulatory enforcement created by the government of Canada, which has set the same requirement for all companies for transportation related industries.
The vaccination requirement does not allow for Covid-19 testing to serve as a substitute. However, those with proven medical issues which would prevent them from receiving the vaccination will be given an exemption.
Air Canada reports they have sought to be on the forefront of proactive action as the Covid-19 pandemic unfolded last year. They were among the first to require testing of employees, and institute mask requirements for passengers. They sought to base their decision-making on scientific evaluations.
Air Canada is the largest airline operating in Canada. It is the largest airline serving Canada’s domestic needs, as well as international needs. The Air Canada history begins in September 1937 when it initiated its first flight utilizing a Lockheed L – 10a carrying two passengers and mail to and from Vancouver and Seattle. They started out under the name of TransCanada Airlines or TCA. Nearly 30 years later, in 1964 they had grown to be the largest airline in Canada and changed their name to Air Canada. By the year’s end of 2019, they reported 94 trillion passenger miles flown and an operating revenue of 19.1 trillion. Altogether, including Air Canada and its regionals, the reported total fleet size of Air Canada was 178 passenger jets, Air Canada Express utilizing 140 regional sized aircraft and Air Canada Rouge operating 34 aircraft. Fleet types include Boeing 777, 787, 737, Airbus 330, Airbus 321, Airbus 319, Airbus 220. On the regional level: Embraer 175, Bombardiers CRJ200, CRJ900, and Dash8 turboprop aircraft. Air Canada Rouge operates the narrowbody Airbus fleet.
With such a large fleet moving millions of people throughout the world, it is understandable that Air Canada has sought to take proactive measures to protect the public as well as its employees.
Several border services in Canada have also begun to reopen allowing for limited travel between fully vaccinated United States citizens and permanent residents into Canada via marine vessel reporting sites and certain airports that have been previously closed. Careful review of requirements should be made prior to travel due to the changing environment. For example:
"Before heading to the border, travelers should inform themselves and fully understand their obligations by ensuring their eligibility to enter Canada and review the Covid 19 vaccination requirements found on Exiting and Entering Canada webpage. Travelers eligible to enter Canada continue to be required to have a negative pre-arrival Covid 19 molecular test result taken no more than 72 hours before arriving in Canada or previous positive test results taken between 14 to 180 days before departure to Canada. They must provide proof of their test result to government of Canada officials at the border. Antigen testing, often called rapid tests are not accepted. Fully vaccinated travelers must submit their mandatory information including the digital proof of vaccination in English or French using ArriveCan (mobile app or by assigning an online) within 72 hours before arriving at the border by Marine mode. While Canada is moving forward with these measures, it's important to note that US border restrictions remain in place for nonessential travel at this time." Go directly to the source for information from the Canada border services agency (www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca)
For US travel requirements, inquire through the US Customs and Border Protection Agency.
On a related note, Delta Airlines issued an update to its policies regarding employee vaccinations for Covid-19 today. Employees who are not vaccinated can anticipate seeing an increased charge for health insurance premiums. This is based on the same timeline as the policy in Canada, requiring proof of vaccination to be provided before the beginning of November.
Earlier in the month, United Airlines publicly announced that their employees will be required to receive the Covid-19 vaccination. It is reported that this decision by United is considered legal by the union for United employees.
With destinations around the world being regulated by governments with different policies and procedures in place, United Airlines sought to make compliance a little easier with app-based resources. Using the United App or the United.com website, passengers can look up specific requirements for their chosen destination regarding travel limitations, vaccination requirements, testing requirements. Related travel forms can also be downloaded and completed. In conjunction with Walmart, Albertsons, and other pharmacy chains, over 3000 testing and vaccination locations can be reviewed, and appointments booked directly through the United app and website. The platform to coordinate this is called "Trust Assure" which was developed by CLX Health. Its intended use is to make it easier for passengers to understand the specific requirements as well as complete the requirements in a timely manner.
This proactive approach is not unique to United, many other airlines have implemented similar resources. For example, American Airlines offers the VERIFYapp, a health passport that continues to provide essential information and proof of submission capability during the booking process.
Airlines staff have noticed a considerable increase in the number of people traveling throughout the summer of 2021 compared to late springtime, but new challenges to the travel industry and the airline industry are still in play, including the Delta variant of the virus and increased infection risk with increasing social interaction as employees return to work and travelers return to the airport terminals. Attempting to gauge public reaction to mandated vaccination policies like those conducted by Air Canada, and United or policies that may penalize those who are not vaccinated, such as Delta is no easy task. A research firm called Eagle Hill Consulting has been monitoring sentiment over the course of the last year. Conducting an August 2021 survey of 1010 employees sampled throughout the United States, they found the following:
"44% of working Americans say that the rise of the Covid-19 Delta variant impacts a willingness to return the workplace. 50% of workers say the variant has increased concerns about contracting Covid-19. Most workers say the variant means they will take extra precautions at work (61%) and in the personal life (64%). Employees are evenly split (50%/50%) as to whether employers should mandate vaccines before workers return to the workplace. Employees are slightly more supportive (58%) of employers asking about worker vaccination status. Workers are split as to whether employer should provide proof of vaccination, with 52% supporting a documentation requirement. 60% of workers support employers offering incentives to vaccinated employees. Nearly 2/3 (63%) support employers instituting precautions for unvaccinated employees.)
The survey also determined that many employees are more likely to be in favor of penalties imposed upon those who are not vaccinated.
"More than half (63%) of workers say nonvaccinated employees should not be given special allowances to work from home, up from 55% in April. Close to half of workers (51%) say nonvaccinated employees should not be allowed to travel for work, up from 44% in April. Nearly half of workers (44%) say nonvaccinated employees should not be permitted to work in person with customers, up from 39% in April. Many workers (40%) say nonvaccinated employees should not be allowed to work in person with coworkers, up from 35% in April. About three fourths of workers (76%) say nonvaccinated employees should be able to stay with their employer, down from 83% in April.
From this survey, in the United States, employees are divided. A survey of Canadian citizens has not yet been disclosed at the time of this writing.
In summary, Air Canada has fully implemented a program that requires all employees are vaccinated by the close of October 2021. Limited airlines within the United States such as United airlines have announced their intentions to implement the similar policies. While other airlines are considering policies that may not directly mandate vaccination but will make an increased inconvenience for those who are not compliant. Summer travel continues optimistically. And…
Public sentiment in the United States remains perfectly divided.
Air Canada Press Release, Cision PR Newswire, August 25, 2021.
Air Canada.com Corporate Profile August 25, 2021.
Eagle Hill Consulting , “Rise of Delta Variant Triggers Return to Workplace Concerns for Nearly Half of U.S. Workers” ARLINGTON, Va., Aug. 24, 2021 /PRNewswire/
Koenig, Dave Associated Press, “United Airlines will require US employees to be vaccinated” August 6, 2021.