In a memo to staff on Wednesday, CEO Ed Bastian said the “surcharge will be necessary to address the financial risk the decision to not vaccinate is creating for our company.”
Bastian claimed that the “average hospital stay for COVID-19 has cost Delta $50,000 per person” and that, “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 75% of Delta employees are vaccinated against the virus, Bastian argued that the “aggressiveness” of Covid-19’s Delta variant “means we need to get many more of our people vaccinated, and as close to 100 percent as possible.”
The changes will come into effect from November 1, while, from September 12, unvaccinated employees will also have to take weekly Covid-19 tests. Unvaccinated employees must additionally wear face masks indoors.
Reaction to the airline’s decision on social media was mixed. Some praised Delta’s decision, saying it was an “appropriate” way to encourage vaccination and could make “a real difference.”
Others, however, warned that it could set a bad precedent and that the decision was ultimately based on financial greed, not concern for the public.
“Wonder if they’ll raise them on overweight folks and those who don’t exercise as they also consume excess health care expenses,” one person questioned, while other critics also asked if health insurance would be more expensive for smokers, the elderly, and those with pre-existing medical conditions.
“This only protects their costs, not their customers. They’ll still let an unvaxxed flight attendant greet everyone at the door and pour their drinks,” another unconvinced American noted.
Other airlines, including United and Australia’s Qantas, are making vaccination against Covid-19 mandatory for employees.
Earlier this month, United CEO Scott Kirby and President Brett Hart told staff that, while they know some employees would disagree with the decision, “everyone is safer when everyone is vaccinated.”
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