Flight attendants are handing out refreshments on a jam-packed Delta Airlines flight scheduled for Friday, April 21.

Kent Nishimura | Los Angeles Times | Getty Images

Ed Bastian, Delta Air Lines CEO, told employees on Wednesday that if they are not vaccinated against Covid-19, their health insurance premiums will be increased by $ 200 a month starting November 1.

Unvaccinated employees will face other restrictions, including indoor masking from now on and weekly Covid-19 testing starting September 12, the Atlanta-based airline said when it announced new Covid guidelines for employees.

The measures are the latest attempt by a US company to increase Covid vaccination rates. Delta stopped short of a full mandate, as set up by rival United Airlines earlier this month. Delta, which self-insures its employees, stands out for its plans to increase its unvaccinated worker premiums to cover the higher cost of insuring employees who contract Covid.

“The average hospital stay for COVID-19 cost Delta $ 50,000 per person,” Bastian said in an employee memo. “This surcharge will be necessary to address the financial risk that the decision not to vaccinate means for our company. In the last few weeks since variant B.1.617.2 came up, all Delta employees have been infected with COVID hospitalized, not fully vaccinated. ” . “

United Healthcare manages the airline’s health insurance plans. The change in approach was the initiative of Delta.

Delta also said that as of September 30, “in accordance with state and local laws, COVID payment protection will only be granted to fully vaccinated individuals who have a breakthrough infection.” Unvaccinated employees who contract Covid must, without exception, use their sick days thereafter.

CEO Bastian said that around 75% of Delta’s 75,000 or so employees have already been vaccinated and that “the aggressiveness of the [delta] Variation means that we have to get a lot more of our people vaccinated, as close to 100 percent as possible. “

Delta started vaccinating new employees against Covid earlier this year.

On Monday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave the Pfizer vaccine full approval, despite a Delta spokeswoman saying the plan had been in the works for weeks and the timing was random.

“Given the full FDA approval of the Pfizer vaccine, the [President Joe Biden’s] strong statements urging employers to require their employees to be vaccinated, and the surge in new COVID cases in the US, we are likely at a tipping point for companies to take stricter measures to motivate their employees to vaccinate, ” said Wade Symons, partner and group leader for “We expect more companies to announce vaccine mandates and surcharges in the coming weeks,” recruiting firm Mercer said via email.

Alaska Airlines announced earlier this month that it was a conIt is assumed that employees must be vaccinated against Covid, but only after one of the vaccines has been fully approved. Frontier Airlines said this month that employees need to be vaccinated or tested for Covid on a regular basis. American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and JetBlue Airways have encouraged their employees to get vaccinated.

Delta, which has the fewest unionized employees on any major US airline, said it had notified the Air Line Pilots Association, their aviation union, of the changes.

Delta pilot and union spokesman Christopher Riggins said the union received dozens of comments from pilots on Wednesday, some of whom are for the surcharge and others welcome the move.

Approximately 8% of Delta’s 12,000 or so pilots are exempt from the $ 200 surcharge because they previously selected a higher premium health insurance plan. This health plan was negotiated under her contract. A change would require Delta to negotiate with the union.

The union has repeatedly said that vaccination should be voluntary for its members.

The union “has consistently advocated upholding the right of every individual pilot to consult with their doctor about COVID-19 vaccinations or booster doses,” it said in a statement. “While the delta [master executive council] respects Delta Air Line’s efforts to mitigate the effects of breakthrough COVID-19 variant infections and must negotiate with the Delta MEC about any employer-required vaccination for pilots.

Airlines are among the hardest hit by the pandemic, and the surge in the Covid Delta variant is already leading to a recent rebound in bookings, according to airlines like Southwest, American and Spirit.

Correction: This article was updated after Delta Air Lines corrected the average medical cost of an employee hospitalized with Covid. It costs $ 50,000 per person.