Delta Air Lines Adds $200 Surcharge For Unvaccinated Employees

Today, Delta Air Lines announced that it will be placing new restrictions on unvaccinated employees and will add a new monthly surcharge on healthcare premiums for such staff. The surcharge will go into effect from November 1st, while testing for unvaccinated employees will start from September 12th.

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Delta Air Lines has announced that unvaccinated employees will be subject to a $200 monthly surcharge. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Delta adds new restrictions for unvaccinated employees

In a memo shared with staff today, Delta CEO Ed Bastian outlined the airline’s new policies for unvaccinated employees. While continuing to encourage employees to get vaccinated, he discussed the new measures with which unvaccinated employees will need to comply.

Effective immediately, unvaccinated employees are required to wear masks in all indoor Delta settings. This mainly affects those working behind the scenes at the airline, as all employees at the airport and onboard the aircraft already have to wear a mask due to the TSA’s mask mandate.

Starting September 12th, all US employees who are not fully vaccinated will be required to take a COVID test each week. This policy will remain in place while community case rates remain high. If an employee tests positive, they will need to isolate and remain out of the workplace.

From November 1st, all unvaccinated employees enrolled in Delta’s account-based healthcare plan will be subject to a $200 monthly surcharge. Delta stated the reason for this was the high cost of average COVID-19 hospital stays. The airline has stated that it costs $50,000 per person for COVID-19 related hospital stays and is adding the measure to address “the financial risk the decision not to vaccinate is creating for our company.”

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To cover the high cost of hospital stays, the airline will be charging unvaccinated employees on the airline’s account-based healthcare plan $200 a month. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Separately, from September 30th, COVID pay protection will only be provided on a limited basis. This will support fully vaccinated employees who are experiencing a breakthrough infection. Unvaccinated employees who contract the virus after September 30th will not get COVID pay protection.

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Short of a mandate but encouragement to get vaccinated

United Airlines, Frontier Airlines, and Hawaiian Airlines have all mandated vaccinations for their employees. Failure to receive the vaccine will either lead to weekly testing mandates or else termination. Delta has already mandated new hires to be fully vaccinated, but this move represents its most impactful policy to get people vaccinated.

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Unlike other airlines, Delta will not terminate employees who refuse to get vaccinated. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Mr. Bastian stated that 75% of the airline’s employees are already vaccinated. However, the recent spread of the mutation which, unfortunately for the airline, is known as the Delta variant, is leading to a new spike in cases and high hospitalization rates – particularly among unvaccinated people. Mr. Bastian, along with Chief Health Officer Dr. Henry Ting, cited the spread of the variant as a reason the airline needs to push to as close to 100% vaccination rate as possible for its workforce.

With full FDA approval granted to the Pfizer vaccine, Delta is exhorting its employees to get fully vaccinated in the coming months or else pay an additional $200 a month surcharge for being unvaccinated.

Recovering the airline industry

Vaccinations have been key around the world for reopening borders and getting travel up and running. To travel across much of Europe, Americans already need to show proof of vaccination or comply with a rigid testing policy. Some countries require both vaccination proof and testing.

When employees get sick, not only does it cause a financial issue for Delta to cover their hospital stay if they are on the account-based healthcare plan, but it also creates a problem for the airline to have people out of work. For example, if a large number of maintenance technicians or a sizable number of the operations teams are out sick, it can wreak havoc on the carrier’s schedules.

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Delta is looking to safeguard its operations and employees by strongly encouraging its remaining employees to get the vaccine. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

This policy is likely the closest thing to a mandate that Delta will get to for the COVID-19 vaccine. Delta will still give its employees the choice to remain unvaccinated, though it will come at a cost and with a testing mandate.

The airline has set up Georgia’s largest mass vaccination site at the Delta Flight Museum, where nearly 35% of the state’s mass vaccination doses were administered. It also touted that over 150,000 doses were administered to employees and their family members and friends at Delta clinics around the country.

What do you make of Delta’s new policy? Let us know in the comments!