Unvaccinated pilots are costing millions, United tells judge
United Airlines Inc. said it's spending about $1.4 million every two weeks to put unvaccinated pilots on paid leave because their colleagues "refuse to risk their safety" by flying with them.
The airline disclosed the figure in a filing Friday night in federal court in Fort Worth, Texas. United is asking U.S. District Judge Mark Pittman not to extend a temporary restraining order he imposed earlier this month on the vaccine mandate the airline announced for all U.S. employees in August.
Pitman's order, which means United can't place unvaccinated workers with a religious or medical objection to its mandate on unpaid leave, is causing "irreparable" financial harm and should not be extended, United said.
The plaintiffs want the mandate blocked for the duration of the court fight. United argues it will never recoup the money it's spending even if it wins the case, while the pilots would get "money damages and retroactive seniority if they ultimately prevail on the merits."
While the cost cited in the filing is relatively small for a company of United's size, the airline industry is still struggling with the aftermath of the pandemic that devastated its business in 2020. The company announced a loss of more than $7 billion last year as air traffic nearly ground to a halt.