United was the first major U.S. airline to roll out a mandate, telling its 67,000 U.S. employees last August to either get vaccinated or be fired, with limited exemptions for religious or health reasons.
As the extremely contagious omicron variant has sent case counts to new highs, snarling air travel in the process, United’s data would seem to validate the mandate.
“While we have about 3,000 employees who are currently positive for COVID, zero of our vaccinated employees are currently hospitalized,” Kirby told employees Tuesday in the memo. “Since our vaccine policy went into effect, the hospitalization rate among our employees has been 100x lower than the general population in the U.S.”
Currently in the U.S. more than 100,000 coronavirus patients are hospitalized nationwide, according to a New York Times database. The country is also averaging more than 500,000 new cases a day — a record.
Kirby added that there were no COVID-related deaths among vaccinated employees for eight weeks in a row.
Prior to the vaccine requirement, an average of more than one United employee a week was dying from COVID-19, the CEO said.
“Based on United’s prior experience and the nationwide data related to COVID fatalities among the unvaccinated,” he added, “that means there are approximately 8-10 United employees who are alive today because of our vaccine requirement.”
That’s not to say it’s been smooth sailing for the airline, which, like the rest of the country, has had to contend with a wave of employee illness and, as a result, flight cancellations. Kirby noted that nearly one-third of the airline’s workforce recently called out sick in one day alone at Newark Liberty International Airport, a major United hub.