While virtually all airlines have encouraged employees to get vaccinated, airlines have taken different approaches when it comes to the incentives and requirements surrounding this. Among airlines in the United States, United Airlines has been the leader, requiring all employees to get vaccinated (both Frontier Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines matched).
American and Delta haven’t gone quite as far, but with the vaccine now having received full FDA approval, Delta is introducing some interesting policies.
Delta adds restrictions on unvaccinated employees
Delta CEO Ed Bastian has today sent a memo to employees, outlining new restrictions that the company is putting in place for unvaccinated employees. It’s claimed that 75% of Delta employees are vaccinated, which seems disappointingly low for a company that relies on an end to the pandemic to stay profitable.
As the memo explains, these new restrictions are due to rising case numbers. Unsurprisingly, the Atlanta-based airline doesn’t refer to it as the “delta variant,” but rather the “B.1.617.2 variant.”
Unvaccinated Delta employees face the following four new restrictions:
- Effective immediately, all unvaccinated employees are required to wear masks in all indoor settings; this will remain in place until community case rates stabilize
- Starting September 12, 2021, any US employee who is not fully vaccinated will be required to take a COVID test each week while community case rates are high
- Starting September 30, 2021, COVID pay protection will only be provided to fully vaccinated employees who are experiencing a breakthrough infection
- Starting November 1, 2021, unvaccinated employees enrolled in Delta’s account-based healthcare plan will be subject to a $200 monthly healthcare surcharge
As you can see, most significantly all unvaccinated employees will have to get tested once per week, and will also have to pay a $200 monthly healthcare surcharge, which comes out to $2,400 per year — that’s pretty significant.
As Delta describes the new healthcare surcharge, the average hospital stay for COVID-19 has cost Delta $40,000 per person, so this is intended to address that “financial risk.” All Delta employees who have been hospitalized due to coronavirus have been unvaccinated.
Bastian finishes with this very nice paragraph:
“Protecting yourself, your colleagues, your loved ones and your community is fundamental to the shared values that have driven our success for nearly a century. Vaccinations are the safest, most effective, and most powerful tool we have to achieve our goals, live up to our values and move forward.”
Is Delta going far enough with these restrictions?
I find Delta’s approach here to be curious — with the vaccine now fully approved, what’s stopping the airline from going so far as to fully mandate vaccination? I suppose there are a couple of ways to look at this.
On the one hand, I think these new restrictions will almost have the same impact as outright adding a vaccine mandate. Weekly testing requirements and an extra $2,400 per year in healthcare costs will cause most vaccine hesitant employees to choose to get jabbed.
At the same time, why isn’t Delta going all the way?
- With full FDA approval, requiring vaccination shouldn’t be controversial, especially as the pandemic continues to rage in the United States
- These restrictions disproportionately impact lower paid employees — $200 per month isn’t a lot for a Delta A350 captain making $300K+ per year, while it’s a lot for a ramper being paid one-tenth as much
While 75% of Delta’s workforce is now vaccinated, the airline is adding new restrictions for the 25% of employees who aren’t, given rising case numbers. Among other things, unvaccinated employees will have to get tested weekly, and will also have to pay a $200 monthly healthcare surcharge.
While Delta isn’t going quite as far as adding a full vaccine mandate for employees, for all practical purposes I think this should have the same impact… almost.
What do you make of Delta’s new policies for unvaccinated employees? What percent of the remaining 25% of employees do you think will choose to get vaccinated with these new restrictions?