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Delta Air Lines Lifts $200 Health Care Surcharge For Unvaccinated Employees

Delta Air Lines Lifts $200 Health Care Surcharge For Unvaccinated Employees

A Delta Air Lines aircraft, seen from above, taxis on the tarmac at Los Angeles International Airport

Delta Air Lines will no longer slap employees unvaccinated against COVID-19 with a $200 surcharge to access the company’s healthcare plan.  The Atlanta-based airline first announced the surcharge last August as part of a concerted effort to encourage employees to get vaccinated without imposing a vaccine mandate.

Chief executive Ed Bastian said the decision to add the surcharge was made to help cover the $50,000 average cost of treating employees struck down with COVID-19 who needed to go into hospital.  The vast majority of employees requiring hospital treatment for COVID-19 were unvaccinated, Bastian said.

A spokesperson for the airline confirmed on Wednesday that the surcharge would be lifted on April 30.  The airline never released details about how many employees paid the surcharge but around 95 percent of Delta’s workforce have now been vaccinated according to company data.

Bastian had gone head to head with the Biden administration after refusing to introduce an employee vaccine mandate.  The stance was at odds with the likes of American Airlines and Southwest who both gave in to pressure from the White House.  Delta maintained that it would be more effective to encourage and educate employees to get vaccinated.

The airline also withdrew pandemic-related pay protections from unvaccinated workers and made some unvaccinated employees undertake regular testing for COVID-19.  At the time Delta introduced its healthcare surcharge, only 75 percent of the airline’s U.S.-based workforce were vaccinated.  

Last month, United Airlines allowed unvaccinated employees to return to work for the first time after becoming the first U.S. airline to impose a vaccine mandate last summer.  The decision came after a group of unvaccinated employees brought a legal case against the airline.

Both Delta and United Airlines require all new employees to prove they have been vaccinated against COVID-19.

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