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Vaccine mandate for airline workers ‘will not impact holiday travel’, says TSA

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Approximately 93 per cent of airline and airport employees in the US have now been vaccinated, according to the Transportation and Security Administration (TSA), which says the country’s vaccine mandate “will not impact holiday travel” during November and December.

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Under the controversial mandate, some 3.5 million federal employees were ordered to be fully vaccinated (or prove a medical exemption) by 22 November, a deadline which passed yesterday.

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Federal workers, including airline and airport staff, had to receive their last dose of the vaccine no later than 8 November in order to be considered fully jabbed.

TSA spokesperson Lisa Farbstein tweeted: “Approximately 93 percent of TSA employees are in compliance with today’s deadline for the federal employee vaccine mandate and exemption requirements.

“The employee vaccine mandate will not impact holiday travel. Happy Thanksgiving!”

However, a senior White House official has told press that it considers any federal worker who is in the process of getting vaccinated or requesting an exemption as “in compliance” with the mandate.

There had been fears of staff shortages due to some resistance to the mandate, which was announced in early September.

In early October, a group of United Airlines staff asked a Texas federal judge to temporarily block the airline from firing them or placing them on leave for not being vaccinated.

In mid October, TSA Administrator David Pekoske told press that the travel body was having to make “contingency plans” as the vaccine take-up among employees was only at around 60 per cent.

In November, Texas governor Greg Abbott issued an order barring private employers from mandating vaccines in the state, saying inoculation against the coronavirus should “always be voluntary for Texans” – but airlines American and Southwest said they would not comply with this.

Despite the noisy press around employee resistance to the mandate, United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby said in September that the number of employees who have quit over the mandate is negligible, describing it as “in the single digits”.

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