As they ramp up for this summer, airBaltic have announced that they have began rehiring crews, with a mandatory vaccination requirement.
They are an exciting airline to watch. They have undergone a complete transformation in the past few years, retiring two aircraft types and taking on a fresh, efficient fleet. But like everyone else, airBaltic have had to fight their way through the pandemic. The airline currently has 1,100 workers. But during 2020, they had to lose about 30% of their original workforce.
However, they are now rehiring – albeit slowly. These are people that airBaltic had to let go last year, but vaccination is a mandatory condition for their return. The airline has already brought back 73 people, and in this round, they are hiring 20 more cabin crew. So there still some way to go, before they rehire everyone that had to stop working in 2020. Of course with changes in the airline’s fleet and operations, it’s possible that some employees would leave in any case.
It isn’t clear if airBaltic’s mandatory vaccination is part of a wider drive for frontline employees in Latvia. But the airline reports that they will have given the first dose of the vaccine to 70% of their employees, by the end of May. This implies that the airline has some involvement in the process. So new/returning employees that want to get the vaccine, should have help from airBaltic in doing so.
Mandatory Vaccination – airBaltic or National Policy?
Some have pointed this out as a change in policy for the airline. Back in March, airBaltic’s CEO Martin Gauss had stated that he couldn’t make vaccination mandatory:
“I would like to have a situation that I can say all of our crews are vaccinated, but we cannot order people to do that.”
Again, this mandatory vaccination could be a national policy, rather than one of airBaltic’s. And in any case, it doesn’t appear to affect existing employees at this time. Mr Gauss now says:
“All new employees, whose work duties are related to permanent contact with other people, are required to be vaccinated and maintain it active during the pandemic. We have a 5-star Covid-19 safety rating, and already by the end of May more than 70% of airBaltic staff will have received their first Covid-19 vaccine.”
In other parts of the world (including Europe), there are calls to introduce the same policy. Or even a policy covering existing airline employees. ICAO have certainly voiced their opinion on the matter. The question is whether it needs to be an initiative to offer vaccination to aircrew, or to make it mandatory, as with airBaltic’s returning employees.
Regarding these returning cabin crew, airBaltic’s CEO said:
“More than a year ago we were forced to make tough decisions, including letting many of our people go. We provided them with various benefits, including a social package. Today we are proud that we are in a position to rehire. We are confident about our future, and know that soon we will return to our growth path, which will mean hundreds of new highly skilled job opportunities.”