Unvaccinated Delta Airlines Employees Could Lose Benefits
Unvaccinated workers have to wear masks and will soon have to take weekly coronavirus tests. Eventually, they will have to pay $200 in additional health care costs.,
Delta steps up pressure on employees to get vaccinated.
Credit…Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times
Aug. 25, 2021, 10:00 a.m. ET
Delta Air Lines is intensifying pressure on employees to get vaccinated with a series of increasingly burdensome requirements over the coming weeks and months, though it stopped short of the mandates that other airlines and businesses have put in place.
In a letter to employees on Wednesday, the carrier’s chief executive, Ed Bastian, said that those who have not been vaccinated will immediately be required to wear masks indoors. Starting on Sept. 12, they will also have to take weekly coronavirus tests.
On Sept. 30, unvaccinated workers will lose pay protection for employees who test positive for the virus and miss work while having to quarantine. Finally, starting on 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 the decision to not vaccinate is creating for our company,” Mr. Bastian said. “In recent weeks since the rise of the B.1.617.2 variant, all Delta employees who have been hospitalized with Covid were not fully vaccinated.”
The average coronavirus-related hospitalization has cost the company about $40,000 per person, he said. Like many large employers, Delta insures its own work force, meaning it pays health costs directly and hires insurance companies to manage its plans.
The onerous requirements apply to a shrinking share of the airline’s work force, with 75 percent of employees now vaccinated, Mr. Bastian 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,” he said. “That’s why we’re taking additional, robust actions to increase our vaccination rate.”
Delta, which is based in Atlanta, its biggest hub, operates the largest vaccination site in Georgia out of its flight 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 family 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, which puts the state near the bottom of the country.
The airline’s approach differs from that of some competitors. Earlier this month, for example, United Airlines announced that it would require vaccines across the board. That mandate will take effect on Sept. 27. United employees who provide proof of vaccination by Sept. 20 will receive a full day’s pay. Frontier Airlines, a smaller carrier, said it would require vaccination by Oct. 1.