In a unique and bold move, effective November 1, Delta Air Lines employees who choose to remain unvaccinated against the COVID-19 virus will be assessed an additional $200 monthly for their health insurance premium. Rather than specifically mandating vaccination, the Atlanta-based carrier is telling those who refuse to be innoculated that they will be paying for the increased costs the airline incurs to cover pandemic hospitalizations.
In addition to the higher insurance premium, starting September 12, unvaccinated Delta employees will be required to take a weekly COVID-19 test and wear a mask indoors while at work. Thus far, United Airlines, Hawaiian Air and Air Canada are the only North American airlines to mandate vaccinations for all workers, with an exception allowed for those who may be immuno-compromised and have not been vaccinated at the direction of a physician. Frontier Airlines requires vaccination or a weekly test for the virus, and Alaska Airlines is expected to mandate the vaccine shortly.
With the removal of the “emergency” status for the Pfizer vaccine this week, and the anticipated removal of the status for other vaccines coming very soon, more and more companies are mandating vaccinations not only for their staff, but often for visitors to their offices. Since Delta self-insures their employees, it is estimated that it costs $50,000 per person for a COVID-19 hospital stay.
Delta’s CEO Ed Bastian said in a statement, “This surcharge will be necessary to address the financial risk the decision to not vaccinate is creating for our company……, In recent weeks…all Delta employees who have been hospitalized with COVID were not fully vaccinated.”
Furthermore, Delta is stipulating that “COVID pay protection will only be provided to fully vaccinated individuals who are experiencing a breakthrough infection.” Other employees who miss work due to COVID will have to use their accrued sick days for time off.
The airline estimates that 75% of its 75,000 employees are already fully vaccinated, but it has asserted its goal is to get as close as possible to 100% vaccination, as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, the largest airlines including Delta, United and American, sub-contract hundreds of daily flights to other companies to operate, so those employees are not covered under any mandates that may be issued. Hopefully, companies including Sky West, Republic Airways, Envoy, GoJet and Endeavor will quickly follow suit.
Also to be considered by travelers is the fact that Delta’s 12,000 pilots are exempt from the $200 surcharge as their union-supported health care plan already requires higher premiums. The pilot’s union believes that vaccinations should be a personal decision by each cockpit crew member.
What do you think? How do you feel about flying on an aircraft where some of the employees aren’t vaccinated? Should all passengers be required to submit proof of vaccination in order to travel?