Delta Air Lines is increasing pressure on employees to get vaccinated in the coming weeks and months with a series of increasingly demanding requirements, even though it fell short of mandates set by other airlines and companies.
In a letter to workers on Wednesday, Ed Bastian, the carrier’s CEO, said those who have not been vaccinated should immediately wear masks indoors. From September 12, they must also do weekly coronavirus tests.
On September 30, unvaccinated workers will lose pay protection for workers who test positive for the virus and miss work while quarantined. Finally, as of Nov. 1, any employee who remains unvaccinated will have to pay an additional $200 per month to remain on the company’s health care plan.
“This surcharge will be necessary to address the financial risk that the decision not to vaccinate poses to our company,” said Mr Bastian. “In the past few weeks since the emergence of variant B.1.617.2, not all Delta employees hospitalized with Covid have been fully vaccinated.”
The average hospitalization related to the coronavirus has cost the company about $40,000 per person, he said. Like many major employers, Delta insures its own staff, meaning it pays for health costs directly and hires insurance companies to manage its plans.
The tough requirements apply to a shrinking proportion of the airline’s workforce, with 75 percent of employees now vaccinated, Mr Bastian said.
“We have always known that vaccinations are the most effective means of keeping our people safe and healthy in the face of this global health crisis,” he said. “Therefore, we are taking additional, robust actions to increase our vaccination coverage.”
Delta, which is located in Atlanta’s largest hub, operates the largest vaccination site in Georgia from its aviation museum, Mr. Bastian said. More than 115,000 doses have been administered to state residents there and more than 150,000 doses have been given to employees, their families and friends.
About 50.5 percent of Georgia’s adult population is fully vaccinated, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, putting the state at the bottom of the country.
The airline’s approach differs from that of some competitors. United Airlines, for example, announced earlier this month that it would require vaccines across the board. That mandate takes effect on September 27. United employees who submit a vaccination certificate before September 20 will receive a full day’s wages. Frontier Airlines, a smaller airline, said it should be vaccinated before Oct. 1.