Court Rules United Can’t Put Unvaccinated Staff On Unpaid Leave

A judge has extended a restraining order preventing United Airlines from sending unvaccinated employees on indefinite unpaid leave.…

Court Rules United Can’t Put Unvaccinated Staff On Unpaid Leave

A judge has extended a restraining order preventing United Airlines from sending unvaccinated employees on indefinite unpaid leave. Around 2,000 of United’s 67,000 employees had asked the airline for exemptions on medical or religious grounds, leaving them at risk of being out of work and out of income.

Six United Airlines employees are suing the airline over the prospect of indefinite unpaid leave. Photo: Vincenzo Pace/Simple Flying

Texas judge issues a restraining order

Lawyers for the United Airlines and six impacted employees had previously agreed the airline would not send the workers out on unpaid leave. But that agreement was due to expire soon. On Tuesday, US District Judge Mark Pittman issued a restraining order preventing United from putting the workers on unpaid leave.

“The court is not currently ruling on the merits of the parties’ arguments on these points,” CNN Business quotes Judge Pittman writing. “Rather the court seeks simply to avoid the risk of irreparable harm to the parties and to maintain the status quo while the court holds an evidentiary hearing.”

The restraining order is valid until October 26, by which time Judge Pittman is expected to issue a ruling on the matter.

In early August, United Airlines said its US-based employee must get vaccinated. At that stage, approximately 90% of pilots and 80% of flight attendants had already done so.

“We know some of you will disagree with this decision to require the vaccine for all United employees. But we have no greater responsibility to you and your colleagues than to ensure your safety when you’re at work, and the facts are crystal clear – everyone is safer when everyone is vaccinated,” United told its employees at the time.

Around 99% of United’s employees have voluntarily got vaccinated. Photo: United Airlines Newsroom

232 employees in United’s firing line

United says only 232 US-based employees had either not got vaccinated by the late September deadline or applied for an exemption. On Wednesday, United CEO Scott Kirby confirmed those employees were “going through the termination process.”

But those 232 employees are in a different category from unvaccinated employees who have sought exemptions. United says unvaccinated workers seeking a medical exemption will likely go onto medical leave. Depending on their union contract, they may still receive a portion of their salary. Unvaccinated employees seeking religious exemptions would go onto indefinite unpaid leave.

The six employees suing United Airlines had requested an exemption on one of the two grounds. They are not at immediate risk of losing their jobs – their risk is getting cast into limbo.

“United Airlines’ refusal to provide reasonable accommodations to its vaccine mandate violates the federal civil rights protections of our clients, the hard-working men and women at United,” said the plaintiff’s attorney Mark Paoletta on Wednesday.

Six United Airlines employees suing the airline fear being cast into career limbo. Photo: Vincenzo Pace/Simple Flying

Texan vaccination order conflicts with White House order

The lawsuit is taking place in Texas. Earlier this week, Texas Governor Mark Abbott prohibited employers in that state from mandating employee vaccinations. However, the Biden administration is mandating vaccinations among its federal contractors. Most major US airlines, including United, hold federal contracts and are captured by the Biden order.

Two big US airlines, American and Southwest, are based in Dallas. It’s early days yet, but they’ve indicated they’ll abide by the Biden order rather than the Abbott order.

United says the lawsuit will not impact the 232 employees facing termination. The airline seems relatively unfussed about the legal action. The airline knows its pro-vaccination stance has the support of the Biden administration, the majority of its employees, and most of its passengers, an airline spokesperson saying;

“Vaccine requirements work, and nearly all of United’s US employees have chosen to get a shot. For a number of our employees who were approved for an accommodation, we’re working to put options in place that reduce the risk to their health and safety.”

Do you agree with United’s pro-vaccination stance? Should the airline keep the six employees behind the lawsuit on the payroll? Post a comment and let us know.

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As Delta Grows Boston Its Focus Is On Profits Over Market Share

Delta Air Lines recently announced an impressive expansion out of Boston and has been bulking up its schedule…

As Delta Grows Boston Its Focus Is On Profits Over Market Share

Delta Air Lines recently announced an impressive expansion out of Boston and has been bulking up its schedule as the recovery continues. As the carrier has been working its way up to the top in Boston, airline executives made it clear on Delta’s third-quarter earnings call that the focus in Boston is not a market share play but one of more sustainable, profitable growth.

Delta Air Lines is making a play for Boston, but one that is focused on profitability over market share. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Delta bulks up Boston

Boston Logan International Airport (BOS) is the newest hub in Delta’s network. A city with no dominant, established legacy carrier, the airline saw some opportunities that it seized on. It added some transatlantic flying to its key international hubs and bulked up domestic flying. Just before the pandemic hit, the airline declared Boston a hub, and it was clear more routes would be coming.

That growth was paused in 2020 and through early 2021 because of the crisis. Boston, as a coastal hub, was a more business-heavy origin and destination city and a transatlantic hub, which did not bode well through much of 2020. However, in the last few months, business travel has started to come back, as have leisure travelers.

This was marked by the launch of two new long-haul international routes. The carrier announced, for summer 2022, flights from Boston to Tel Aviv (TLV) and Athens (ATH). This was on top of growth in the domestic market to San Diego, Denver, and Baltimore.

Delta Airbus A330
Delta has not been shy about adding new long-haul flying out of Boston. Photo: Getty Images

Going for profitability over market share

Glen Hauenstein, Delta’s President, stated the following on the carrier’s third-quarter earnings call about Boston:

“I think what we see is our products suit the Boston market quite well, being a premium carrier and having Boston be a very affluent city with a huge component of corporate travel. We think that we are best suited to deliver the best products and services to the customers of Boston. And we’re going to, as I said in previous calls, we don’t want to be the biggest, we just want to be the most loved and the most profitable.”

This is not a new strategy for Delta. In March, as airlines were preparing to ramp up and the onslaught of ultra-low-cost carriers (ULCCs) was a concern, Mr. Hauenstein reiterated that Delta was laser-focused on profits over market share. The same is true in Boston – even as it prepares to eclipse JetBlue and American in the city.

As Delta Grows Boston Its Focus Is On Profits Over Market Share
Delta has been building up a hub for both Boston-area travelers and connecting ones. Photo: Getty Images

A focus on its product offering

Next year, Delta will be debuting its brand new Airbus A321neo out of Boston. Featuring the airline’s latest domestic first class seat and a sizeable extra-legroom economy cabin, Delta is going after more premium travelers and offering a completely different product than what other airlines offer.

As Delta Grows Boston Its Focus Is On Profits Over Market Share
Delta will debut its new first class cabin out of Boston next year. Photo: Delta Air Lines

Another focus of Delta has been to offer more customer-friendly aircraft. This includes the Airbus A220. The airline is looking to build up its daily departures of this aircraft, which features fewer middle seats than other mainline narrowbody aircraft and an upgraded passenger experience.

Separately, Delta has upgraded some transcontinental services. Flights to Los Angeles now feature flatbed seats in business class. Other flights, including select flights to Seattle, are also getting an upgrade to feature lie-flat seating. The goal is to offer customers an upgraded passenger experience and expecting to grow its profitability organically and then move into market share.

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