At least 500 Delta Air Lines employees have tested positive for COVID-19 according to chief executive Ed Bastian and 10 staffers have tragically died from the serious respiratory illness. The figures were revealed during a teleconference between Bastian and shareholders last Thursday and cover all confirmed cases amongst the airline’s employees worldwide since March.
Delta is preparing to test every single employee for the novel Coronavirus in a major deal with the Mayo Clinic and Quest Diagnostics. The first round of testing has already gotten underway using Quest’s pin-prick serology tests to determine whether someone has the antibodies to COVID-19.
Employees will also be offered an antigen test to determine whether they are currently infected with the virus. That test typically involves a throat and nasal swab, although several less invasive tests have been approved.
“We have had approximately 500 employees that have tested positive for COVID-19. The vast majority have recovered, thankfully. Unfortunately, we have lost 10 employees to the disease,” Bastian said according to a transcript of the call.
The airline employs around 90,000 people worldwide. Bastian recently told Bloomberg TV that infection rates amongst Delta employees were significantly below the U.S. national average.
“We have recently announced that we are going to be testing all of our employees. In fact, we started this week in Minneapolis for both the blood serology, as to whether they have already been exposed to the disease and have antibodies, as well as the active test to see if they, indeed, are carrying the virus,” Bastian told shareholders.
“From getting a good baseline we will be able to provide better protection for our people and then, eventually, certainly, our customers as we go forward,” Bastian continued.
Like many airlines, Delta mandates that both crew and passenger wear a face mask onboard its aircraft. Delta has also hyped the efforts it is going to in order to keep aircraft clean and assuage fears that passenger may have about flying at the moment. The Atlanta-based carrier is one of the few remaining airlines to block middle seats until at least the end of the summer.
Bastian did not say what groups of employees had been most affected by the novel Coronavirus but he admitted that as a “frontline customer service business, the majority of our employees need to be at work to conduct business.”
Delta hopes to get capacity back up to 20 per cent of pre-COVID levels in the coming weeks. Daily cash burn has been cut to $30 million a day from a high of £100 million in early April.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.