Delta Air Lines plane
Delta Air Lines planeiStock

Delta Air Lines has announced that a $200 monthly surcharge will be applied to health insurance premiums of all its unvaccinated employees, NBC News reports.

Delta’s CEO Ed Bastian explained the policy change in a company memo: “The average hospital stay for COVID-19 has cost Delta $40,000 per person,” he wrote. “This surcharge will be necessary to address the financial risk the decision to not vaccinate is creating for our company. In recent weeks since the rise of the B.1.617.2 variant [i.e. the Delta variant], all Delta employees who have been hospitalized with COVID were not fully vaccinated.”

While Delta has not opted to mandate vaccination for its employees as rival United Airlines did several weeks ago, all new hires will be required to be vaccinated. In addition, unvaccinated staff will be hit with other penalties such as indoor masking and weekly coronavirus tests. Furthermore, the company will only provide pay protection in cases of coronavirus infection for those who have been vaccinated (breakthrough cases); anyone who contracts the virus and is not vaccinated will have to deduct from his sick days.

Bastian noted that around three quarters of Delta’s approximately 75,000 employees have already chosen to be vaccinated. “The aggressiveness of the [Delta] variant means we need to get many more of our people vaccinated, and as close to 100 percent as possible,” he added.

Earlier this month, Alaska Airlines told employees that it was considering a vaccine mandate for its employees, but would only do so after at least one of the vaccines received full FDA approval. Frontier Airlines announced this month that employees must either be vaccinated or test regularly for COVID-19.