The COVID-19 pandemic had a great impact on the aerospace industry. Since the global outbreak of the virus in early 2020, countries have had to go on lockdown to prevent the further spread of the virus.
As a result, thousands of aviation companies like BOEING, Airbus, and Lockheed Martin had to ground all their passenger airplanes. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) estimates the global aviation industry lost over $100 billion in 2020 alone, more than three times the losses caused by the 2008 financial crisis.
However, the production and release of the COVID-19 vaccine have been the light at the end of the tunnel for the industry. Currently, over 45% of the world population has received the shot while more than 8.5 billion vaccines have been distributed globally.
The numbers are encouraging as more and more people are regaining their trust and confidence in traveling again. In this article, we will discuss how the aerospace industry has been responding to the COVID-19 vaccine mandate. Let’s dive in, shall we?
What Is a Vaccine Mandate?
A vaccination mandate is an official state decree that mandates people to get vaccinated. Failure to comply with this rule has legal ramifications that restrict you from going to work or attending public functions.
Others may also legally bar you from entering their facility or using their services if you refuse to comply with the vaccine mandate. Because of the novel Coronavirus outbreak and the creation of the COVID 19 vaccine, President Joe Biden has recently released a COVID-19 vaccine mandate that requires all companies with more than 100 employees to get vaccinated or get tested weekly.
In the U.S. alone, the aerospace industry has employed over 509,000 workers with BOEING leading with 140,000 workers. Hence, almost all aviation companies in the US are above the minimum threshold stated by Biden. This mandate requires that by January 4th, 2022, every mandated company should get its employees vaccinated.
To put this in perspective, every large company including aviation companies has an aggregate of about 84 million employees. That’s almost one-fourth of the entire US population. Out of this, 31 million have remained unvaccinated.
What is the Federal Government Saying?
Along with the vaccine mandate delivered by Biden, the federal government ensures that companies that are mandated to vaccinate their employees provide paid time off for workers that have been vaccinated and are recovering from any side effects.
Also, there are legal exceptions for employees that may refuse vaccination due to sincere religious beliefs. Additionally, any worker that may have a bad reaction or allergy to the vaccine will be exempted provided they inform their employers.
The president also signed an executive order that requires all federal contractors including BOEING to get inoculated as soon as possible. However, a recent turn of events has halted Biden’s executive order.
Just a few days ago BOEING suspended vaccination for its employees. The decision to drop the COVID vaccine order was a result of the recent court ruling by a federal judge on 7th December.
Nevertheless, the company made it clear that it will continue to urge its employees to take the vaccine shot. Pilots of American and Southwest Airlines are pushing against the mandate by refusing to take the vaccine.
They claim taking the vaccine will affect their health and physical soundness. Consequently, they will not be able to fly. According to Dennis Tajer, a spokesperson for the American pilot’s union, he said in an interview with NPR’s David Schaper, “Some of our pilots – we have about 4,000 – are holding off on it because many are concerned about long-term effects of the vaccine.”
Other airlines such as Delta Airlines and JetBlue Airlines are not pushing forward with the executive order even though they said they will encourage vaccination among their workers.
Which Companies Have Agreed to the Vaccine Mandate?
Despite the numerous pushbacks by major airlines, several airlines have agreed to the vaccine mandate. United Airlines is the first major aerospace company to mandate vaccination for all its employees. 67,000 U.S. United Airlines employees were required to get the shot before 25th October or get fired.
Frontier Airline also gave a direction for its nearly 70,000 workers to get vaccinated or risk being fired.
According to Forbes, all but two major airlines had announced vaccine mandates by early October. Despite this trend, several companies have softened their stance, particularly because of ongoing legal battles.
The Legal Battles
The federal government has been a house divided as different court rulings issued concerning Biden’s vaccine mandate regarding federal contractors. A federal judge, in Georgia on Tuesday 7th December, blocked President Joe Biden’s administration from enforcing a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for employees of federal contractors.
The ruling was stirred by several lawsuits from mandated contractors and seven other states. The court called Biden’s executive order fatally flawed” and “staggeringly overbroad,” arguing that the requirements likely exceed the authority of the federal government and raise “serious constitutional concerns.”
What the Future Looks like
As controversies about vaccine mandates drag, production lines are bound to suffer, especially because employees seem to be right in the middle of the standoffs. In these uncertain times, Aerospace and Defense contractors need to focus on ensuring that their supply chains work seamlessly. For instance, you’ll need an automotive supply company that can provide you with all the key materials and resources to facilitate production.
As it stands, the federal government doesn’t seem like it would back down on its goal for vaccine mandates. Several airlines have bought into this idea, although lawsuits, particularly from employees, have put paid to this aim.
It will take some time to resolve this impasse. In the meantime, both Airlines and Aerospace manufacturers must work to ensure there are no stalls in production, and this starts by choosing the best supply chain companies.