Delta Imposing New Fees, Restrictions On Unvaccinated Employees

United Airlines has told employees they must get vaccinated if they want to keep their jobs. There are certain legally-mandated exceptions, but flight attendants were told that their union wouldn’t help them obtain these exemptions.

No other major U.S. airline has gone as far as United. Delta had required vaccination for new hires. Now they’re doing a lot more. Unvaccinated employees will pay an extra $200 per month for their health insurance, face indoor masking requirements, will be subject to weekly Covd-19 testing.

According to a memo from CEO Ed Bastian to employees,

The average hospital stay for COVID-19 has cost Delta $40,000 per person. 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, all Delta employees who have been hospitalized with COVID were not fully vaccinated.

Bastian cryptically refers to the “B.1.617.2 variant.” He refuses to call it… Delta.

Flight attendants and airport agents, of course, already face masking requirements while on the job whether they’re vaccinated or not by federal rule. A masking policy then is a strong incentive for employees who don’t face customers to get vaccinated.

(HT: Paul H.)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. @ Gary — This is very smart. The alternative of firing people would carry great legal costs. This move will achieve near 100% compliance and avoid these legal costs. Of course, some slime-of-the-earth lawyer will still attempt to pursue legal action against DAL over the $200/month fee.

  2. Good for Delta.
    This is precisely the same risk-based health management that many companies have regarding smoking, weight, and heart disease and/or diabetes management.
    People need to make their own health decisions but they need to be accountable for those decisions.
    Just a reminder that Delta, like many companies, provided financial incentives to employees to get vaccinated. This is one step up as financial penalties are being added for continued risky behavior.
    If only Medicare and Medicaid required the same type of risk-based insurance coverage, the US would be a lot healthier and wealthier.

  3. Up next will be overweight employees will be required to pay more due to increase in health costs, oh and that 78% of COVID deaths are from obese patients. If you can’t run a mile, you must pay extra….

  4. Will disproportionately affect poc. Going to be fun to watch all these diversity-hungry corporations navigate this minefield.

  5. @Flyover – employees who are overweight, smokers, or don’t meet other certain thresholds already don’t get a bonus to their HSA so they’re already penalized. Sure it’s not a “fee” like this case but it’s still a way to incentivize healthy lifestyles

  6. @Gene – I don’t necessarily disagree, but a policy that is systemically biased against poc is not going to sit well. No denying that.

  7. Love this! We need more employers to have such policies. You have a right to not inject a vaccine in your body, corporations have a right to ensure a safe working environment for everybody.

  8. If the average Covid hospitalization costs Delta $40,000, does the extra $200/month surcharge to an employee’s health insurance bridge the entire gap? I assume that Delta has an easier time implementing this solution due to having a widely non-unionized workforce.

    If the $200/month surcharge does not cover the hospital costs, then I suggest that Delta–and all employers–increase the surcharge to a level ($500/month??) that will turn this into a zero-sum game. The “users” (of hospitalization due to unvaccinated Covid status) will bear the cost of said hospitalizations.

    If you don’t want to bear the burden of the additional insurance, then just get the FREE vaccinations. In most instances, this is neither a complicated problem nor a complicated solution.

    Let the squealing/whining now commence……….

  9. I’m guessing Delta, like many large companies, self-insures a significant part of its employee health care costs, so too many large claims can affect the company’s bottom line.

  10. Employees with other health issues aren’t causing mask mandates, travel restrictions and mandatory testing for me. As an old saying goes “The freedom of your fist ends where it meets my chin”.

  11. Half of these people pushing vaccine mandateswon’t even put gluten in their bodies but they will jump at the chance to inject a chemical thats been around for less than a year right into their bloodstream.

  12. Good for Delta (the airline). Businesses have a stake in having their employees well and on the job, instead of in the hospital or dead. I’m wondering where the $40,000 figure comes from, but in any case those who refuse to be vaccinated should be paying the economic costs of their decision. The sooner we get people vaccinated, the sooner we can get out of COVID restrictions and resume normal life, including ending the mask mandate.

  13. @DLPenalty – what bonus are you getting to your HSA? I run 4 miles during my lunch break 4 days of the week and workout the other day. Yet I pay the same for my health ins as the dude next to me who goes on 8 smoke breaks a day, eats fast food everyday, and drinks Monster energy drinks everyday. Take a guess who is at the dr more?

  14. @DaveS – sounds great but run that amongst all the healthy habits that affect health costs. Delta is bowing down to the mandate crowd.

  15. @DaveS “The sooner we get people vaccinated, the sooner we can get out of COVID restrictions and resume normal life, including ending the mask mandate.”

    I agreed with that thought a few months ago, but given the data from Israel and the U.K. showing that vaccine effectiveness is dropping and some strains are reproducing in vaccinated individuals, it no longer seems realistic.

  16. I have to wonder how legal the $200 per month health insurance premium surcharge is. I thought that rewards and penalties imposed on an employer’s health insurance program could not exceed 30% of the cost. Given a penalty of $2400 per year, the Delta employees would have to cost $8000 or more per year on Delta’s health insurance program (between the employee and employer) for this to be legal. Given the average cost health care insurance cost is $7470 for a single person, Delta might be breaching that limit.

  17. @vijay displays his lack of basic science. Everything is chemicals.
    Secondly the mRNA tech has been studied for a long period. But of course he doesn’t know the difference between RNA and DNA.

  18. Once again a reminder . . . “short term goals have long term effects.” This insurance surcharge is setting a very discriminatory precedent. Keep in mind that 70% of the Covid fatalities have been people with 2.6 underlying health conditions and people of color. If you’re willing to allow insuring only people who are not in a high risk group and/or healthy people with no family history of certain illnesses, then this plan is for you.

  19. Delta Airlines CEO Ed Bastian said, “The average hospital stay for COVID-19 has cost Delta $40,000 per person.”
    For truth in advertising, he should have said, “The average hospital stay for COVID-19 has cost Delta $40,000 per person. which is at least $10,000 less than two round trip DeltaOne tickets from Detroit to Sydney, Australia.

  20. Brand identity is paramount for any successful company. Ed Bastian has every reason to distance the name of the company with something that will adversely affect his company. Just like the knuckle heads that don’t know that Delta is Delta Air Lines, not “airlines”. Just like Coca-Cola refers to the drink, not the company. Delta has gone above and beyond in taking care of its employees which in turn takes care of the company and ultimately those who choose to fly on Delta Air Lines. While all of the airlines have suffered from irate passengers and stupid moves by their employees to mitigate the problems, Delta has had the fewest. Maybe there’s a reason! “Delta is ready when you are!”

  21. @Flyover: “I run 4 miles during my lunch break 4 days of the week and work out the other day…Take a guess who is at the dr more?”

    OK. My guess is I think it’s you. I think runners see their doctor more for runner’s knee, shin splints, jumper’s knee (patellar tendinitis), iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS), ankle sprains, broken bones, pulled muscles, side stitches, blisters, and chafing. With a dangerous heat index over 130, I would also add dehydration, heat exhaustion, and heatstroke.

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