United brings back vaccines from airports for employee reminders as omicron spreads

United Airlines Ramp Services worker John Dalessandro receives a COVID-19 vaccine at United’s on-site clinic at O’Hare International Airport on March 09, 2021 in Chicago, Illinois.

Scott Olson | Getty Images

United Airlines this week resumed offering vaccines to staff at some of its busiest airports, as the omicron variant continues to spread across the United States and among its own ranks of employees.

The Chicago-based airline is administering Covid-19 booster shots at several of its busiest hubs: Newark Liberty International Airport, George Bush/Houston Intercontinental Airport, Chicago O’Hare International Airport and the Won Pat International Airport in Guam, spokeswoman Leslie Scott said.

The airline last August established the most stringent vaccine requirements for all US carriers, requiring staff to be vaccinated unless they obtain a religious or medical exemption, or are licensed. More than 96% of United’s approximately 67,000 U.S. employees have been vaccinated.

The company stopped its airport vaccination program at the end of last summer.

“This is another step we’re taking to educate our employees on the importance of boosters and make them easily accessible,” Scott said. The company is not currently changing its definition of fully vaccinated to include boosters, she said.

United’s relaunch of the airport vaccination program comes as the rapid spread of omicron airline workers was sidelined, contributing to 20,000 flight cancellations between Christmas Eve and the first week of January.

United CEO Scott Kirby said on Monday that 3,000 of the airline’s roughly 67,000 U.S. employees had recovered from Covid infections and a third of its staff on a recent day at its Newark International Airport hub. Liberty in New Jersey had called in sick from the virus. He said the company averaged one Covid-related death per week before the vaccine was mandated and no vaccinated United employees had died of virus-related causes in the past eight weeks.

Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian said Thursday that about 1 in 10 of his employees had tested positive for Covid in the past four weeks, but no serious health issues had been reported.

Delta is offering staff and friends and families of employees vaccines at its aviation museum near its headquarters in Atlanta, spokesman Morgan Durrant said.

Correction: Morgan Durrant is a spokesperson for Delta Air Lines; Leslie Scott is a spokesperson for United Airlines. An earlier version of this article misrepresented this information.

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