The burden of vaccination screening may fall on airlines already battling the pandemic
If airlines are forced to verify that passengers have been vaccinated, prepare for a tumultuous mess at airports across the country.
After Anthony Fauci voiced his support behind a COVID-19 vaccination requirement for airline passengers, industry watchers on Monday warned of a “logistical nightmare” – lines out the door and a wave of delays and cancellations.
The burden of vaccination checks could fall on airlines already battling the pandemic: Big carriers warned just last week that their business could be 30 percent below normal by the start of the fall.
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Conor Cunningham, a senior travel industry analyst at trading firm MKM Partners, said the vaccine would be a “logistic nightmare” for Mandate Airlines and the Transportation Security Administration – and told The Post that a requirement would lead to “a lot of cancellations”.
“The experience at the airport will already be worse than it really is,” Cunningham said, arguing that many airports and airlines are short of staff and having workers check vaccine cards would be an added burden.
“The logistics of this are very difficult,” he said.
The White House’s chief medical adviser, Fauci, was the first to voice his support behind the idea in an interview on Friday, while Jeff Ziants, coordinator of the Biden administration’s coronavirus response team, has said he “denies” a vaccine mandate for air travel. not done.
“I would support that if you want to get on a plane and travel with other people you should be vaccinated,” Fauci said.
According to a September Gallup poll, domestic air travelers in France and Canada are already required to show proof of vaccination, and 61 percent of Americans support the idea.
But airlines and analysts have pushed against the idea.
Executives at American, Delta and United Airlines have publicly pitched the idea in recent months.
“It’s very difficult for us to come in and mandate a vaccine,” Delta CEO Ed Bastian said on CNBC in August, which was shortly before the FDA approved the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine.
Meanwhile, American Airlines CEO Doug Parker told the New York Times in August that a vaccine mandate “would not be physically possible without huge delays in the airline system.”
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And United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby told CNN the same month that it is up to the US government to decide whether vaccines are needed and predicting that “it won’t happen domestically.”
The analyst, Cunningham, said a potential mandate would mean lower-level employees such as gate agents or flight attendants could be asked to “take a lot of slack” to ensure airline compliance. The Labor Union Association of Flight Attendants did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Airlines for America – a lobbying group that represents major US airlines including Delta, Southwest and American – opposes requiring vaccines for domestic flights, as the New York Times reported in April.
Yet spokeswoman Catherine Estep did not respond to a question from The Post whether the group still opposes such a mandate, saying instead that the companies represented by Airlines for America “comply with all CDC guidelines and requirements.” and are committed to leaning in science to guide policies and protocols that prioritize the well-being of all passengers and crews.”
Cunningham said the impact of a potential vaccine mandate could vary by airline.
Carriers like United — which have hubs in blue states with high vaccination rates such as Illinois, California and New Jersey — may have an easier time than rivals like Southwest, which is concentrated in the less vaccinated state of Texas. .
Nonetheless, he said a vaccine mandate for air travel would be “just bad, period”, even if companies are focused.