Delta Air Lines announced on Thursday that it will require all new hires to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 if they want to work for the Atlanta-based airline. A Delta spokesperson confirmed the policy would be implemented for new employees except for those who qualify for an accommodation.
In a statement, the airline said that voluntary vaccine uptake amongst its workforce had been so high that they were close to achieving “herd immunity”.
“We know that vaccines are the best tool we have to protect one another and bring an end to the pandemic,” a spokesperson said. “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,” the statement continued.
Delta chief executive Ed Bastian has previously dismissed calls to make vaccination mandatory for current employees but has frequently encouraged staffers to get jabbed. Bastian has mused that vaccination could be mandatory for some existing pilots and flight attendants on certain long-haul international routes.
United Airlines had contemplated making vaccination mandatory for existing employees but also stepped back from the idea. The airline had also considered designating special seating areas on its planes for fully vaccinated passengers only – an idea that CEO Scott Kirby eventually rejected.
Earlier this month, Delta became the last carrier to end its generous middle seat blocking policy and start filling planes to full capacity. The airline cited high vaccination rates as the main driver for ending the policy, saying that 65 per cent of passengers intended to have had at least COVID-19 shot by the start of this month.
Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated mask-wearing guidance for people who are fully vaccinated on Thursday but the advice remains to mask up in airports, on airplanes and on other forms of public transport. A federal mask mandate also remains in force for airports and airplanes.
“The CDC’s update today calls out air travel specifically as an area where they recommend masks. There is also a federal mandate from the TSA that masks be worn in airports and on commercial flights that runs through September,” a Delta spokesperson said, confirming the airline would continue its no-nonsense approach to anti-maskers.
The federal mask mandate is set to remain in force through September 13.
Photo Credit: Delta Air Lines
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.