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UPDATE 1-Southwest Airlines to comply with Biden vaccine mandate by Dec. 8

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(Adds detail from internal memo, other airline policies, context on White House demands)

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON, Oct 4 (Reuters) - Southwest Airlines said on Monday it will comply with a Dec. 8 deadline set by President Joe Biden for its employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

The deadline, set last month under an executive order signed by Biden, covers all federal contractors. Unless employees receive and exemption, they must comply "to continue employment with the airline," Southwest said.

"Southwest Airlines must join our industry peers in complying with the federal government’s COVID-19 vaccination directive,” said Southwest CEO Gary Kelly.

In an internal memo seen by Reuters, Southwest said employees must submit vaccination status and submit documentation by Nov. 24. "If you’re not yet fully vaccinated, plan accordingly to meet the deadline," the memo said.

American Airlines said on Friday it would also comply but did not specify when it would require vaccinations of employees. Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian said on Sunday that the company has not decided whether to mandate COVID-19 vaccines.

The White House pressed major U.S. airlines to mandate COVID-19 vaccines for employees by the deadline for federal contractors to do so. It urged them to follow the lead of United Airlines in requiring shots.

White House COVID-19 response coordinator Jeffrey Zients spoke to the chief executives of American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and Southwest Airlines on Thursday to ensure they were working expeditiously to develop and enforce vaccine requirements ahead of that deadline, the sources said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Large U.S. airlines have a number of federal contracts. Some airline officials had asked the White House to push back the requirements until after the busy holiday travel season. (Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Leslie Adler and Grant McCool)