Unvaccinated Delta Air Lines employees will soon be forced to pay an additional $200 per month for the company's health care plan, CEO Ed Bastian announced Wednesday, one of several steps the airline is taking to mitigate its risk amid surging Covid-19 cases.
Bastian, in a memo to employees published online Wednesday, said the $200 surcharge for unvaccinated Delta employees is meant to offset medical costs from a coronavirus infection, which is more likely to occur in unvaccinated individuals.
“This surcharge will be necessary to address the financial risk the decision to not vaccinate is creating for our company,” the memo read. “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.”
Although the airline stopped short of requiring vaccination for its employees, the Delta policy marks a new step for major U.S. employers by enforcing a penalty for the unvaccinated. But it's not without risks, including with unions.
The Airline Pilots Association's Delta Master Executive Council, which represents nearly 13,000 pilots at the airline, almost immediately voiced concerns about the surcharge requirement for unvaccinated employees, saying in a statement that it has advocated “to maintain the right of each individual pilot to consult with his or her medical provider regarding COVID-19 vaccinations or booster doses.” It went on to say that Delta needs to “bargain with the Delta MEC over any employer-mandated vaccination for pilots.”
Other steps announced Wednesday by Bastian include a mask requirement for all employees in indoor settings and an end to Covid-19 pay protections for unvaccinated Delta staffers. Unvaccinated employees will also be required to undergo weekly Covid-19 tests.
The announcement from Delta comes days after the FDA officially approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Since then, the Biden administration has strongly encouraged businesses and organizations in the private sector to set vaccine mandates for its employees. Companies including United Airlines, Walmart and Disney have issued vaccine mandates for employees even before FDA gave its official approval.
Vaccine mandates are popular with a majority of voters, according to a Morning Consult/POLITICO poll.
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