The United States is experiencing a pilot shortage, and some pilots are opting out of their jobs because of the federal mandate requiring them to get vaccinated. Unions have been fighting back by telling pilots to keep focus on flying, not vaccines.

Commercial airline pilots’ ability to properly do their duties seems to be hampered by a concern with government COVID-19 vaccination requirements.

Because airlines conduct charter flights that carry government personnel and official U.S. mail, they are deemed federal contractors and are subject to the vaccine requirement imposed by President Joe Biden last month. Federal contracts, according to reports, bring in “hundreds of millions” of cash each year for Delta Air Lines.


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According to USA Today, the pilot unions of American Airlines and Southwest Airlines are self-reporting to the FAA that conversations and worries about the vaccination requirement are increasingly becoming a distraction while on the job.

On Tuesday, the Allied Pilots Association, the organization that represents America’s 14,000 pilots, sent a letter to its members addressing the reality that looming deadlines and strongly split views about the vaccination requirement are dangerously diverting attention away from their jobs.

“Distractions cannot impact safety,” the subject line said. “We are witnessing distractions on the flight deck that may generate hazardous circumstances,” the union’s safety committee stated.

The increase in complaints to the FAA’s Aviation Safety Action Program (ASAP) has been dubbed a “huge, major issue” by union spokesman Dennis Tajer. He added that the initiative is similar to “see something, say something,” in that it doesn’t necessarily indicate that a safety event happened, but it does mean that pilots are voluntarily reporting that vaccination requirements are causing them some concern.

Tajer believes that some distraction is to be anticipated during this “stressful” period, since some pilots are concerned about losing their jobs if they do not get vaccinated in time. He stressed, however, that pilots must put such feelings aside and concentrate on their duties.

“It’s a reminder message, not a scolding message,” he said. “On the (vaccine requirements), I understand you, but let’s go back to the (flight) checklist.”

Young woman getting vaccinated against COVID-19. Vaccination against COVID-19 for a young lady. (picture courtesy of iStock/Getty Images) E+/Geber86)

The Southwest Airlines Pilots Association (SWAPA) issued a similar warning to its membership on October 9 in the wake of the airline’s severe operational problems. Rose tiredness has already been a cause of distraction among its pilots in 2021, according to the letter, as travel rapidly increasing with increased vaccination rates but staffing lagged behind.

The current obsession with vaccination requirements, according to the dispatch, “only exacerbates” the issue. Southwest’s pilot union, like American’s, has observed an increase in ASAP reports to the FAA, as well as other methods of gauging distraction levels.

“Recent ASAP reports have shown that distractions have entered the cockpit, hampered performance, and contributed to a number of mistake chains,” according to the letter. “These annoyances must be reduced.”

“We’re not here to argue the vaccination mandate’s merits. The union stated, “We are here to stress that each SWAPA pilot’s primary emphasis must be on flying the aircraft at the greatest standards of safety in the business.” “There is nothing more essential or holy than this.”

In order to guarantee that workers comply with the federal vaccination requirement, each of the big U.S. airlines is adopting a different approach. A month before Biden’s federal mandate was revealed, United had already implemented an internal vaccine obligation. Workers in the United States have been warned that if they do not get vaccinated by the statutory deadline, they risk losing their employment. Employees who reject the vaccine will not be fired, but they will be fined $200 each month. Southwest says it won’t fire anyone who refuse to be vaccinated, but it doesn’t specify what the consequences of ignoring the legal requirement could be. Earlier this week, several present and former Southwest employees protested the vaccination requirement outside the carrier’s Dallas headquarters. Employees who are anti-vax have been encouraged to seek for exemptions by the airline.

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