MSNBC panel urges airlines to ‘pay the government back’ by mandating passengers get vaccinations

MSNBC host Stephanie Ruhle and her guests on Wednesday bluntly stated that airlines could “pay the government back” for the billions given to them during the pandemic to keep them afloat by mandating vaccinations for their employees and all passengers.

“COVID cases are back on the rise in 48 states, and this morning there’s growing questions about the role businesses should be playing in enforcing rules about mask mandates and vaccinations,” Ruhle commented.

“Remember, the U.S. government spent trillions of dollars in the last year supporting businesses, supporting individuals in our time of need. The question now is, where are these businesses now that the government needs their help?” she asked.

“They have to deal with customers. They have to deal with employees. They wouldn’t have either one if the government hadn’t given them billions and billions of dollars last year. So maybe they could pay the government back and say, yes, we’re going to help try to get people vaccinated. For those who are vaccine-hesitant, don’t just talk to your doctor, call Donald Trump’s doctor, call Rupert Murdoch’s doctor. You don’t need to watch their news organizations. You know what their doctors will tell you? Those men got vaccinated,” she stated.

(Video Credit: MSNBC)

Guests on the panel included Andy Slavitt, who is a former senior adviser on COVID-19 to President Joe Biden, and CNBC host Andrew Ross Sorkin. Both posited that the “only way to change the dynamic” regarding vaccination rates was “to have a requirement.”

“If you can’t walk into a Walmart or work at a Walmart without a vaccination, especially in states where there is a hesitancy, that’s going to actually change the dynamic,” Sorkin contended. “If you can’t get on an airplane without a vaccination, that is going to change the dynamic. The airlines took an enormous amount of taxpayer money… We have all supported them, and there has been very little support on the other side.”

Slavitt stated that “United Airlines wanted to do that, and they faced a ton of opposition, and they were alone, and they had to ultimately back off. So they are dealing with the same forces that everyone else is dealing with, customers, employers, et cetera. We’ve got to get everybody in the country. We’ve got to continue to make the case because employers are running into the same wall, too.”

As pilot shortages loom for the airline, the pilots’ union eventually forced United Airlines to rescind the mandate for their current employees. New employees, however, are required to be vaccinated. Delta Airlines is also requiring vaccinations for new hires.

A federal mandate is still in place that requires masks on flights but, so far, vaccinations have not been mandated for employees or passengers.

United Airlines, Delta Airlines, American Airlines, and Walmart are offering incentives that include extra pay and time off to new hires who are vaccinated according to CNBC.

United Airlines is also offering vaccinated passengers a chance to enter the “Your Shot to Fly” sweepstakes to win free flights.

“As we welcome new employees to the company, it’s important we instill in them United’s strong commitment to safety,” United Airlines said in a note to their staff, which was tweeted out earlier by Brian Sumers, the editor-at-large for travel-industry site Skift.

New employees “will be required to upload their COVID vaccine card in My Info no later than 7 days post-hire date,” the airline stated. The company will take into consideration any religious or medical circumstances of candidates who can’t be vaccinated.

There is no consensus among the airlines on mandated vaccinations yet but United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby said in January that he wanted to make vaccinations mandatory for employees.

The idea of mandatory vaccinations on airlines is not popular:

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