Southwest Airlines (LUV) has cancelled its plans to put unvaccinated employees who are waiting for religious or medical exemptions on unpaid leave. 

On October 4, 2021, the airline made an announcement that it is requiring all of its 56,000 employees to be vaccinated in order to comply with federal rules by the Biden administration’s COVID-19 action plan.

The rule states that federal contractors, including major US airlines, face a December 8, 2021 deadline to require all employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

An airline spokesperson confirmed to local media that Southwest employees must submit proof that they received the COVID-19 vaccine, or file a request for an exemption from vaccination, by November 24, 2021. 

Employees whose requests have not been processed or approved by December 8, 2021 will be allowed to keep working while following mask and distancing guidelines until their request has been reviewed.

"While we intend to grant all valid requests for accommodations, in the event a request is not granted, the company will provide adequate time for an employee to become fully vaccinated while continuing to work and adhering to safety protocols," the spokesperson said.

Southwest Airlines (LUV) is based in Dallas, Texas, where the state governor, Greg Abott, has banned any entity in Texas, including private businesses, from requiring vaccinations for employees or customers.

Southwest Airlines’ (LUV) recently suffered a chaotic three days of operational disruption which led to over 2,000 flight cancellations and 2,000 delays from October 9-11, 2021. 

Southwest’s COO Michael Van de Ven addressed the mass flight cancellations and delays on October 14, 2021. Van de Ven refuted widespread speculation that the disruption was caused by employee unrest due to the airline’s vaccine mandate, but also emphasized that the airline’s goal is to hire more people. 

AeroTime Hub has reached out to Southwest Airlines (LUV) to get a statement regarding its decision.

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Southwest Airlines president Mike Van de Ven says the recent flight disruptions were not a result of employees protesting over COVID-19 vaccine mandate.