CEO of Delta Air Lines has spoken in an interview today about his feelings around the COVID vaccine. He said that he ‘strongly encourages’ uptake of the vaccine but that he is still undecided whether vaccination will be a prerequisite to fly.
No vaccine, no fly?
Qantas boss Alan Joyce shocked the world when he said that his airline would likely require passengers to be vaccinated against COVID if they wanted to fly in future. He bolstered his commitment to this just today, but so far is the only airline CEO to be quite so bold in his approach.
In an exclusive interview for 3rd Hour Of Today on NBC News, CEO of Delta Air Lines Ed Bastian wasn’t as outspoken as the Qantas boss, noting that he ‘hasn’t decided yet’ whether passengers would require vaccines to fly. He did, however, have some strong words to share regarding the uptake of the vaccine. Speaking to Craig Melvin, he said,
“We’re going to strongly encourage that airline employees all get vaccinated. Airline employees are front line workers and will be given priority as a front line worker to access to the vaccine. Myself, I can’t wait to get vaccinated. And we’re going to strongly encourage all our people to make sure they get that protection, that inoculation from this deadly virus.”
While Delta hasn’t ruled out mandating vaccination to fly, Bastian believes it could be a decision that’s taken out of the airline’s hands. He said,
“I think for international travel, it will become a requirement. Whether it’s the airline does it or some international authorities do it.”
Should international health authorities, governments, or other bodies rule that vaccines should become mandatory, the onus would be removed from airlines to take a hard stance on this decision. It wouldn’t be the first time a vaccine has become compulsory, with diseases like smallpox historically having legal enforcement applied. However, in the modern world of freedom and choice, it would be a difficult social situation to overcome.
Stimulus still required
As well as talking about the vaccine, Bastian spoke at some length about the need for financial support. IATA’s recent assessment of the impact of the vaccine suggests it will not be widely distributed enough to really benefit airlines until the fourth quarter of 2021. With airlines only having, on average, eight months of cash liquidity in the bank, many may not survive to see the benefit of a vaccinated world. Bastian said,
“Within our industry, we’re continuing to lose money. At Delta, fortunately, we’ve been able to get through this with no furloughs of any of our employees, which is great. And we expect to get through next year in the same condition. But we know within our industry, there’s tens of thousands of employees who have been furloughed at other airlines. The stimulus program for the industry would enable those employees to get their jobs back, which we support and encourage Congress to act on this measure.”
Just yesterday, Senate Republican Mitch McConnell was reported by the Financial Times as stating that a stimulus deal was ‘within reach’. He believes there is strong bipartisan support for a further package of financial help. Earlier this week, proposals were put forward for a $908 billion COVID relief bill, and it is hoped that an agreement will be forthcoming on this in the next few days.