Will Airlines Require Pilots To Be Vaccinated For COVID-19?

airline crew personnel
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Will airlines require pilots to be vaccinated for COVID-19?

Air Transport World Editor-in-Chief Karen Walker answers:

The question really should be broadened to include flight crew because flight attendants are in much closer contact with passengers.

For the most part, flight crews and their unions regard themselves as frontline workers in a pandemic. They favor vaccination, just as they have favored testing and wearing masks. Whether or not it will be a requirement that they be vaccinated depends on government and local state laws, airline/company policies and the rules of countries where flight crews travel for work.

Currently, regular testing for COVID-19 is a common practice among flight crews. It is also required by many countries for all inbound travelers, including flight personnel, who are often also required to stay self-quarantined in crew hotels between duty shifts.

With vaccines still in limited supply, and different states having different rollout rates, there is currently no general mandate for flight crews to be vaccinated. But as vaccines become more widely distributed, some countries may demand evidence of vaccination before entry, just as some countries require evidence of vaccination against diseases like yellow fever. Flight crews are unlikely to be exempt from such mandates.

In the U.S., the FAA is requiring pilots not to fly in the 48 hr. after vaccination and requires them not to return to duty if they are experiencing any side effects from the vaccine. But there is no requirement for vaccination. That may change in the U.S. and elsewhere, but it is too early to tell.

Karen Walker

Karen Walker is Air Transport World Editor-in-Chief and Aviation Week Network Group Air Transport Editor-in-Chief. She joined ATW in 2011 and oversees the editorial content and direction of ATW, Routes and Aviation Week Group air transport content.