Delta Air Lines announced Wednesday that it will require unvaccinated employees to pay a $200 monthly surcharge if they are enrolled in the company’s health care plan.
CEO Ed Bastian wrote in a memo to staff that while 75 percent of Delta employees are vaccinated, the new fee is aimed at increasing vaccination amid concerns over the “very aggressive” Delta variant.
“While we are grateful for the progress we’ve made, the most recent virus variants make it clear that more work remains ahead,” Bastian said.
“I know some of you may be taking a wait-and-see approach or waiting for full FDA approval,” he added. “With this week’s announcement that the FDA has granted full approval for the Pfizer vaccine, the time for you to get vaccinated is now.”
The monthly surcharge will take effect beginning November 1.
“The average hospital stay for Covid-19 has cost Delta $50,000 per person,” the memo said. “This surcharge will be necessary to address the financial risk the decision to not vaccinate is creating for our company.”
In the meantime, unvaccinated employees will be subject to an indoor mask mandate effective immediately, as well as weekly COVID-19 tests beginning September 13. Beginning September 30, the company’s COVID-19 pay protection will only be offered to fully vaccinated individuals who are experiencing a breakthrough infection.
The policy makes Delta the first major U.S. company to impose a monetary penalty on employees who choose not to get vaccinated, according to Bloomberg.
However, Delta did not go so far as to implement a vaccine mandate, as United Airlines did earlier this month.
United Airlines announced it would require its 67,000 U.S. employees to be vaccinated by October 25 or risk being fired.