Delta Will Require Employees To Get Vaccinated Before They Start Work

Delta announced that all new employees will have to be vaccinated against Covid-19, but isn’t saying there will be any requirement for current employees to get a shot.

They’ve explained this as a way to keep up the airline’s already-high levels of vaccination. According to spokesperson Elizabeth Ninomiya,

We know that vaccines are the best tool we have to protect one another and bring an end to the pandemic. Delta people have made great progress to achieve herd immunity within our workforce, so to help us maintain that trajectory, we will be requiring all new hires in the U.S. to be vaccinated against COVID-19 unless they qualify for an accommodation.

This is an important move to protect our workforce and our customers as our business recovers and demand for air travel continues to rise.

They suggest vaccination protects their customers, though passengers vaccinated with mRNA vaccines are largely already protected (and Johnson & Johnson is highly effective against negative outcomes). If you’ve had two Pfizer jabs, especially if your second dose was delayed, you may not care whether the people you interact with have been vaccinated. However if you’re immunocompromised, or vaccine-hesitant, this should be of great comfort.

Part Of A Successful Marketing Strategy

Although United should be commended for running its auxiliary power units on the ground to take advantage of HEPA air filtration and cabin air refresh during boarding and deplaning, Delta probably took more steps than anyone to give customers confidence flying during the pandemic.

This includes blocking middle seats, improving air filtration on jetways, and installing hand sanitizer stations on (some) aircraft.

Delta has been known in the past for its operational reliability, somewhat friendlier service, and marginally better inflight experience (from seat back entertainment to amenity kits in coach on longer flights). Their reliability has melted down over recent holiday periods, and they’ve been slow to return inflight service relative to competitors.

However their focus has been Covid-protection and passenger confidence as a strategy to earn a revenue premium, and marketing their efforts heavily. Announcing this requirement, even though it doesn’t appear to apply to any existing employees, should be seen with through this lens.

Is Delta Nearing Herd Immunity?

Delta says they’ve “made great progress to achieve herd immunity within our workforce” which is a rather odd claim. That’s not how herd immunity works.

While the percentage of people immune to stop transmission varies based on the reproductive rate of a virus, let’s say 70% was enough to stop it. What that means is that with so many people impervious to a virus, it runs into dead ends. When someone has the virus, they can’t find enough people to infect to keep chains of transmission going.

However herd immunity is largely in reference to a stable community. Delta employees don’t just come into contact with other Delta employees, they come into contact with their families, they come into contact with customers, they come into contact with supermarket workers. Herd immunity requires that enough members of the community representing all interactions be immune in order to protect those that aren’t. Delta isn’t a closed community, so suggesting ‘Delta is at or nearing herd immunity’ isn’t meaningful, outside of claims that the broader U.S. is. (And even that gets tricky.)

Will Other Airlines Require Vaccination?

United Airlines wanted to require all employees to get vaccinated against Covid-19. United’s CEO Scott Kirby even mused about ‘vaccinated-only’ seating sections, if only the government would allow it.

American Airlines on the other hand said they wouldn’t require vaccination though some destinations employees might need to travel to could require it and its CEO acknowledged that competitive pressures could force it to reverse its position – if other airlines started requiring vaccination, and that made customers feel more comfortable, they could have no choice but to follow suit.

Until now it’s been all talk on the part of airlines, with Delta the one to make the first real move.

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. A new study has come out showing that waiting to get the second Pfizer shot 12 weeks instead of 3 created a much stronger anti body response.

  2. Delta’s claim is mostly right. Their employees won’t get herd immunity. Instead they will get immunity in a hogh percentage of their vaccinated workforce.

  3. @Amazing Larry for what? They’re perfectly within their rights to require it of their workforce. Unless the lawsuit is based on the fact that it is not a requirement applied evenly to all employees. And don’t say anything about HIPAA, because it does not apply.

  4. Bravo, Delta! Let’s get this damn pandemic into the halls of history.

  5. I’m definitely more likely to frequent businesses where vaccination is required, not only because it reduces the risk of infection but it reduces the number of anti-vax idiots that are around me.

  6. @Amazing Larry

    “China Virus”
    Everything we need to know about you was exposed in that one cretinous observation.

  7. @”Amazing” Larry, suppose everything you say is true. Suppose every immunologist and epidemiologist is wrong, and you, a random dumbass internet commenter are correct. There is still no basis for a lawsuit because Delta can refuse to hire you for any reason outside of race, religion, age or gender. That’s why they are only requiring this of new hires rather than existing employees in the first place in the first place. The level of legal protection is much lower.

    You’re killing your father Larry!

  8. Even if I knew absolutely nothing about the clinical details of the experimental ‘vaccine’, the only thing I need to know is the zero- liability provision. That tells me everything….

  9. Another reason to fly Delta. Especially seeing the anti-vaxxers don’t like it. Let them be “patriots” and fly American.

  10. Delta can get away with this because they are largely non-union. Delta only has two unions on property and one of those two is pretty small. With union groups, the issue becomes one of applying policies evenly. United, Southwest, American will struggle with this because unions will be forced to fight for both the vaccinated and unvaccnated. It will take a long time to get such a policy implemented.

  11. @amazinglarry
    Larry, you need to stick to being a Chump Fool instead of commenting on a virus that has killed over a half million. Kind of reminds me of the great scientist Chump who stated it will be over by Spring of last year. Larry and Chump scientific geniuses. Good for Delta.!

  12. @Wesley, it doesn’t make a difference what unionization level is at an airline or how strong the unions that an airline has because the union doesn’t represent people before they are hired. In fact, it’s genuinely an issue that unions throw people who haven’t been hired yet under the bus with 2 tier pay scales and benefit policies.

  13. @Rog. A half million people in the US that died did test positive for Covid before or after their death. Big difference. But be patient . . . the flawed testing information is forthcoming.

  14. @larry you are a racist idiot. If there is someone more deserving of catching a severe case of Covid 19 I would need to search long and hard. It is people like you who give Americans a bad name around the world.

  15. @Amazing Larry
    It’s the Wuhan Virus
    I know, call me a racist, everyone is a racist blah blah blah

  16. @larry you are a racist, just are too stupid to think racism is only against one race. The virus is Covid-19 because it was discovered in 2019.
    Your comments prove one can’t fix stupid. Doubt you have black friends or Asian friends. Just maybe Klan friends.

    Come get me tough guy. You don’t scare me.

  17. Nice. coming from a facist Trumpanzee. You are projecting your racism, and stupidity on others. Sounds like you are a tough Proud Boy. Were you in DC on Jan 6th too. You can find me in California. Let me guess, you are in Florida in Matt Gaetz’s district or someone toothless white trash Town. I can tell you are just blowing hot air out your asshole. Hope you catch Covid 19 and die. Would make the world a better place.

  18. @larry you need help. You are no Democrat. Don’t lie. Don’t accuse me of using your argument. I don’t refer to Covid 19 as the China virus or Wuhan virus. Only racist Trumpanzees do that. Done with you. Hopes and prayers you catch Covid. You deserve it asshole.

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