Jan 11, 2022 - Economy

United Airlines: Employee deaths dropped to zero after vaccine mandate

Picture of a plane with United Airlines logo

Photo: Daniel Karmann/picture alliance via Getty Images

Since United Airlines' COVID-19 vaccine mandate went into effect last summer, no employee has died, CEO Scott Kirby said in a letter to employees.

Driving the news: Kirby said that prior to the vaccine mandate, "tragically, more than one United employee on average *per week* was dying from COVID,” but "we’ve now gone eight straight weeks with zero COVID-related deaths among our vaccinated employees."

  • He said in the letter that there are approximately 3,000 employees who have tested positive for the virus but added that no vaccinated employee is hospitalized.

Our thought bubble, via Axios' Joann Muller: Kirby got out in front of corporate America with his controversial vaccine mandate and defended the decision by saying he was tired of seeing employees die. With this letter, he seems to be vindicated.

State of play: Thousands of flights were canceled during the holidays due to the Omicron surge.

  • Kirby said in his letter that "[w]hile we go to great lengths to avoid cancelling flights," United has "been able to get a high percentage of our customers on other flights and close to their original arrival time."

What he's saying: "Since our vaccine policy went into effect, the hospitalization rate among our employees has been 100x lower than the general population in the U.S.," Kirby said.

  • "[B]ased on United’s prior experience and the nationwide data related to COVID fatalities among the unvaccinated, that means there are approximately 8-10 United employees who are alive today because of our vaccine requirement."

Flashback: Kirby told Axios in August that he was tired of seeing his employees die from the virus: "For me, the fact that people are 300 times more likely to die if they’re unvaccinated is all I need to know ... It's about saving lives."

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