Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly on Tuesday voiced his displeasure with the White House’s vaccine mandate for major airline companies but said his hand is being forced by federal rules.
Kelly told CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street” that a protest among employees over the mandate had “zero” to do with the wave of flight cancellations in recent days but acknowledged there are some employees with “very strong views” on both sides of the vaccination issue. He added he himself is “not in favor” of the mandate coming from the Biden administration.
“There’s absolutely no issue in working with our employees. Talking about the vaccine mandate, oh, yeah, I mean there’s some that have very strong views on both sides of that issue, and, you know, it’s not — as I think you probably know, I’ve never been in favor of corporations imposing that kind of a mandate. I’m not in favor of that — never have been. But the executive order from President Biden mandates that all federal employees and then all federal contractors, which covers all the major airlines have to have … a vaccine in place by December 8. So, we’re working through that. We’re urging all of our employees to get vaccinated. If they can’t, we’re urging them to seek an accommodation, either for medical or religious reasons.”
“[M]y goal, obviously, is that no one loses their job,” he continued. “The objective here, obviously, is to improve health and safety — not for people to lose their jobs. So, yes, we have strong views on that topic, but that is not what was at issue with Southwest over the weekend.”
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