Unvaccinated Delta Air Lines employees on the company's health care plan will be charged an extra $200 per month, Delta CEO Ed Bastian said Wednesday in a memo to staff. Additionally, pay protection for COVID-19 will apply only to vaccinated employees experiencing a breakthrough case, which is "in compliance with state and local laws," Bastian said in the memo.
Unvaccinated employees will also be subject to weekly COVID-19 testing and be asked to wear a mask at all times.
Employees have until Nov. 1 to get fully vaccinated before the $200 monthly surcharge goes into effect. The pay protection rule is set to kick in on Sept. 30. Weekly testing for employees who've chosen not to get vaccinated begins Sept. 12, and the mask mandate is effective immediately.
In the memo, Bastian said the average cost of a hospital stay for COVID-19 has cost the company $50,000 per person, and that the surcharge for unvaccinated employees is necessary to address "the financial risk the decision to not vaccinate is creating for our company." All Delta employees hospitalized with COVID-19 in recent weeks were unvaccinated, Bastian said.
According to a report released Tuesday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, unvaccinated people are about 29 times more likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19 than fully vaccinated people.
"I know some of you may be taking a wait-and-see approach or waiting for full FDA approval," Bastian said. "With this week's announcement that the FDA has granted full approval for the Pfizer vaccine, the time for you to get vaccinated is now."
By instituting an additional charge for unvaccinated employees' health care, Delta is taking a different approach than other companies and airlines that have enforced outright vaccine mandates for all staff.
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