Ed Bastian, chief executive of Delta Air Lines says no decision has yet been made on whether to comply with a federal vaccine mandate for government contractors. Bastian believes there are alternative ways of securing a near 100 per cent vaccination rate amongst workers despite increasing pressure from the White House
Over the weekend, American Airlines fell in line with a demand from the Biden administration to mandate employee vaccination following similar moves from Alaska Airlines and jetBlue on Friday.
“Our goal, clearly, is to get to 100 per cent,” Bastian said during a press conference held on the sidelines of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) annual general meeting in Boston.
But Bastian remains unsure as to whether a mandate is the best way forward. “There are different ways to get there, and we’re going to do it our way,” Bastian said. “If there’s another path and the government mandates it, we’ll continue to consider it.”
Delta and Southwest remain the two last holdouts amongst large U.S.-based airlines to issue an employee vaccine mandate.
The Atlanta-based carrier initially pursued an incentivization strategy that managed to quickly push Delta’s employee vaccination rate up to 70 per cent within a few short months.
An employee lottery with a total prize fund of more than $1 million further pushed the vaccination rate up to 74 per cent.
But it wasn’t until Delta announced that it would start charging unvaccinated employees a $200 monthly surcharge for healthcare benefits that more strong-willed vaccine-hesitant started to accept the shot.
Within three weeks of introducing the surcharge, Delta’s vaccination rate has hit 84 per cent.
Bastian said on Sunday that he believes the surcharge will push the vaccination up to “well over 90 per cent” by November 1.
United Airlines was the first U.S.-based airline to issue a vaccine mandate and has since achieved a 99.5 per cent vaccination rate amongst non-exempt employees. Only 320 unvaccinated employees face being sacked after United gave workers one last chance to get the shot.
The airline says it achieved such a high vaccination rate by combining its mandate with significant outreach efforts, education and incentivization.
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.