Delta Air Lines on Wednesday said it would impose a $200 monthly health insurance surcharge for employees who do not get vaccinated against the Covid virus. While stopping short of requiring vaccines, Delta hopes the monetary penalty will achieve the same result. The move follows an early August mandate imposed by United Airlines that requires all employees to get vaccinated within five weeks of the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of a vaccine. The FDA issued full approval for the Pfizer vaccine on Monday.
In a memo issued Wednesday, Delta CEO Ed Bastian said the surcharge with take effect on November 1. Additional measures include an immediate requirement that all unvaccinated employees wear masks indoors “until community case rates stabilize.” Starting September 12, any U.S. employee who hasn’t been fully vaccinated must take a Covid test each week and those who test positive will need to isolate and remain out of the workplace. Finally, starting September 30, the airline will offer Covid pay protection only to vaccinated employees who have experienced a so-called breakthrough infection.
Bastian reported that 75 percent of Delta’s employees have gotten vaccinated and that since the rise of the latest Covid variant, known as the Delta variant, none of the Delta employees hospitalized with Covid have been fully vaccinated.
“While we can be proud of our 75 percent vaccination rate, the aggressiveness of the [latest] variant (the so-called Delta variant) means we need to get many more of our people vaccinated, and as close to 100 percent as possible,” he said. “We’ve always known that vaccinations are the most effective tool to keep our people safe and healthy in the face of this global health crisis. That’s why we’re taking additional, robust actions to increase our vaccination rate.”
In a statement to AIN, the Air Line Pilots Association's Delta Air Lines unit insisted that the airline should respect pilots' rights to consult with their personal doctors over the need for a vaccine, adding that it must negotiate any vaccine mandate with the union through a formal bargaining process. It did specifically address the issue of the surcharge.
The Association of Flight Attendants did not immediately respond to AIN's request for comment.