United Airlines will allow workers who have not been vaccinated against COVID-19 for religious or medical reasons to return at the end of March 2022, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

According to the report, this will allow airline employees who have been given religious and medical exemptions from getting the COVID-19 vaccine to return from unpaid leave or from the non-customer-facing roles they were allowed to apply for as an alternative to their regular jobs.

United Airlines was the first major US airline to require vaccination among its employees. The carrier adopted a hard stance regarding the COVID-19 vaccination from the beginning, requiring all its employees to be vaccinated or face termination. 

The airline said in October 2021 that its unvaccinated pilots were costing the company about $1.4 million every two weeks on unpaid leave. 

In September 2021, six United Airlines employees filed a lawsuit challenging the company’s vaccine mandate.

In December 2021, however, the US court rejected the employees’ appeal to counter, allowing the airline to place unvaccinated employees on unpaid leave.

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 A United States federal court has rejected an appeal by workers at United Airlines who are challenging the airline’s vaccine mandate