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United's Flight Expansion & Delta's Vaccination Requirement

United Airlines on Monday announced it's adding more than 400 daily flights to its schedule in July and ramping up service to reopened European destinations. The increased flight offerings are said to be the airline’s largest monthly schedule since before the pandemic.

Image - Kevan James

The US airline said it planned to fly 80% of its domestic flight schedule compared to July 2019 as more vaccinated Americans regain confidence in traveling in a post-pandemic world. United says its bookings for summer travel are up 214% compared to 2020.

United said it will add new domestic flights to Bozeman, MT; Orange County, CA; Raleigh, N.C., and Yellowstone/Cody, WY. The airline also said it's adjusting flight times at its Chicago O’Hare International Airport hub and at Washington Dulles International Airport with ample options. Flyers can expect more options for trips to Europe from New York and Newark including another weekly flight to Dubrovnik, Croatia, and a larger aircraft to Athens, Greece.

"This July we're taking a big step toward flying at pre-pandemic levels for our domestic network," Ankit Gupta, vice president of domestic network planning and scheduling at United, said in a statement, adding: "By adjusting our bank structures at two key hub airports, we're able to offer our customers easy connections to destinations across the U.S. so they can start their vacations at times convenient for them."

The airline is also planning to resume flight service to Spain and Portugal with flights from New York and Newark to Barcelona, Lisbon and Madrid depending on countries reopening to vaccinated travellers.

The U.S. set another travel record this month when nearly 1.67 million people travelled on Mother’s Day, according to the Transportation Security Administration, a record for the number of people taking flight since the coronavirus pandemic became widespread in the U.S. It was the highest number of passengers screened since March 12 when air travel dropped, TSA data shows.

In other airline-related news, Delta Air Lines announced it would require all new employees in the U.S. to be vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus calling vaccines the "best tool" to protect travellers. Other carriers like American Airlines said it's giving employees who get vaccinated incentives like an extra vacation day and $50 in the company's recognition points.

Delta Air Lines said this week it would require all new employees in the U.S. to be vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus. The Atlanta-based airline company said on Friday that vaccines are the "best tool" to protect people and help end the pandemic.

Image - Delta Air Lines

"Delta people have made great progress to achieve herd immunity within our workforce, with more than 60% of employees already vaccinated," Delta Air Lines spokesperson Morgan Durrant said. "To help us maintain this trajectory, Delta will require all new hires in the U.S. to be vaccinated against COVID-19 unless they qualify for an accommodation, effective Monday, May 17." Durrant added it was an "important move to protect our people and our customers" and ensured the organization could "safely operate as demand returns."

However, he noted, Delta will not be implementing a companywide mandate to require current employees to be vaccinated.

"Approximately two out of 10 Americans have been infected by COVID-19 and one out of 1,000 Americans has died. The vaccines are not only extremely effective in preventing illness and symptoms from COVID-19, they’re nearly 100% effective in preventing hospitalization and death," Durrant said. "Vaccines are safe, effective and essential to our future."

Last year, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced that companies could legally mandate employees and new hires be vaccinated, barring any disability or religious-related accommodations.

Other airlines have not taken such a firm stance on the issue. American Airlines is giving employees who get vaccinated an extra day off and $50 in the company's recognition points.

In January, United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby voiced his support for mandatory vaccinations in a video forum with employees but said the company could not "realistically be the only company" to follow through.

This announcement comes on the heels of updated guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on mask-wearing, which was met Thursday with mixed reaction. CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said that people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 no longer need to wear masks while indoors or outdoors or physically distance at large or small gatherings.

Fully vaccinated individuals are still advised to wear masks while in crowded indoor settings such as while on public transportation – including air travel – and in hospitals, prisons and homeless shelters.

Durrant said that the airline will continue to require mask-wearing, noting the separate federal mandate that extends through September across all transportation networks throughout the country.

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