Busy Piedmont Denies Pilots Vaccination Time Off


Piedmont Airlines is under scrutiny after denying pilots time off to get COVID-19 vaccinations last weekend in order to maintain its schedule. FAA rules require pilots to take 48 hours off after getting the shot and last weekend was the start of spring break, a big deal in the Southeast where Piedmont, a wholly owned subsidiary of American Airlines, provides regional service with Embraer 145s. “Piedmont will be unable to release any additional pilots for COVID vaccination for the weekend of March 19-21 due to high demand,” the airline said in a memo to its 500 pilots obtained by CBS.

Chief Pilot John Pursell went on to say that pilots should delay vaccines until the end of March so the airline could maintain “operational reliability.” The airline also sent another memo saying it understands that pilots want to get vaccinated as soon as possible but to do it on their own time. The memo said pilots “must make every effort to schedule their single-shot vaccine or the first shot of a two-shot vaccine during their off-time and when the required 48-hour post period will not interfere with their flight schedule.”

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

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  1. “The memo said pilots “must make every effort to schedule their single-shot vaccine or the first shot of a two-shot vaccine during their off-time and when the required 48-hour post period will not interfere with their flight schedule.”

    I have a commercial rating, but for the above and similar reasons decided never to fly for an airline.

    There’s lots of other industries where you can control your schedule, sleep in and build experience to start your own business later.

    And you can always fly for fun.

  2. If this memo is representative of Piedmont’s corporate culture, then it appears that they are willing to risk other peoples lives in pursuit of their profits. Not a good thing, especially for an airline. I won’t be flying on Piedmont.

  3. So what’s new here. I flew for a major carrier for 25 years and their number one reason, and number 2,3,4,5,6 and 7 was to make money. No fly, no make money. No surprise here and really no story. They have always, and always will tell their employees to show up on time, do their job.

    • Seriously? So everything, to include employee health and morale needs to be sacrificed at the alter of corporate profits? That’s quite a lovely corporate culture you paint there 😒

      • interesting comment, Which company are you the CEO of or own and operate? I would be more than willing to show up for that high paying job and then complain about employee health and morale. You would be willing to sacrifice everything you have for it – right? That the party line, take your employers money and then complain? Those pilots have a duty to perform their services to the company in exchange for very desirable wage and benefits. They have the option of not doing that of they feel it is not in their best interest. I tell my employees the door swings both directions. You are free to leave anytime you want.

  4. This is a deeply stupid decision. , I wonder what it might do to their operational reliability later to have pilots who experience paraosmia after covid and smell cigarette smoke and burning wiring when it’s not present…

    • It won’t do anything to their operational ability to fly. There are thousands of pilots on furlough who will beat the door down to have a job to show up to.

  5. Most of the pilots are not old enough to get the vaccine yet. They are fortunate to even be working with the way things are now. I don’t understand why they cannot work around their schedules. They cannot fly for 48 hours after receiving the vaccine. They should be able to work around their schedules.

  6. Piedmont isn’t the only airline, regional or major, telling pilots this. In a time where the airline desperately needs its pilots, those pilots have more leverage than they realize. They just must be willing to use it.

    Go get the vaccine and use a sick day if you need it. If you don’t take care of yourself, no one else will.

  7. Chief Pilot John Pursell. This seems to be a very bad decision on your part. Not respecting your pilots and basically throwing them underneath the bus, is no way to operate an airline. The Piedmont Airlines that I knew, BITD, that is long gone now would be rolling over in it’s grave if it knew about your decision.
    The health and safety of your crew and passengers is of the utmost importance for you as a chief pilot
    Going along, to get along, will never get you into the aviation Hall of Fame. Please stand up and be counted.

  8. Any idea how hard it is to schedule any appointment outside of a month ahead of time? Dentist, doctor, Covid, attorney? You take Covid when you can get it and the follow on shot as well, if YOU decide to take the vaccine. After 25 years with a major AAmerican airline, I can’t begin to count the number of birthday, anniversary, Thanksgiving, Christmas missed or done early/late. Military aviation was the same for 20 years worth of service.

  9. If the company drug tester can meet you at the end of a trip, it shouldn’t be too hard for a vaccinator to meet you at the end of your trip.

  10. A couple of the responders got it right and several were a major “fail”. Yes, airlines like other companies are in business to make a profit not as some baby sitting service for whiny employees. The airlines aren’t the only ones that face this issue.
    Today’s younger workers are all about do less, put in less effort yet want full pay rates. These pilots get somewhere around 12 to 16 days a month off. Getting a shot on there own time isn’t much of a burden. They all have to get physicals twice a year and don’t get time off for that.
    The old joke about pilots remains true. When asked if they would sign a contract where they only worked on Wednesday, they immediately whined “every Wednesday?”
    Get with the program children, the world doesn’t owe you anything. Make your company profitable and be glad for the paycheck. If you don’t like the company, go elsewhere. Grow up.

    • David Cliff, well said.
      Any company, airlines or otherwise don’t owe you anything. You want loyalty or privileges you need to EARN them.

    • I agree with David Cliff. On the other hand if the alleged “pilot shortage” is actually real then those pilots who are not able for whatever reason get the vaccine due to company scheduling, then go find another outfit to fly for that will. I feel fortunate to work for a pt 135 company that worked with a medical consulting outfit to schedule vaccine appointments for employees using the company schedule to time those appointments on pilots’ days off. Already have the appointment for the second shot, on my day off.

    • Yes, well said. Throughout my working life I always understood from the get-go that I was being paid to fulfil the requirements of the job, and that sometimes the job needed to come first. Yet it seems the attitude encapsulated in the “Wednesday joke” is now the norm. I suppose growing up in a world where you are constantly told your birth brings with it the “right” to be supported in comfort by society makes that inevitable.

  11. Reality check.. Good flying jobs are scares today. They were asking flight crews to schedule taking the vaccine on their days off. If the job does not suit you, feel free to go and find your perfect job. I concur, the flying profession hasn’t changed over the last several decades, and it’s not going to change over the next several decades. No matter how much “Gen -whatever” hits the floor and cries about it..