In a memo to Delta Air Lines employees, CEO Ed Bastian announced that the company will impose a $200 monthly surcharge on all unvaccinated employees enrolled on Delta’s health care plan, citing high costs to cover COVID-19 hospitalizations.

What You Need To Know

  • Delta Air Lines will begin imposing a $200 monthly health insurance surcharge on all unvaccinated employees starting in november

  • In a memo, Delta's CEO Ed Bastian cited high costs to cover COVID-19 hospitalizations for the surcharge

  • Unvaccinated Delta employees will also be subject to other restrictions, including indoor masking and weekly testing

  • Bastian touted the company's 75% vaccination rate, but urged vigilance in the face of the highly contagious delta variant

“The average hospital stay for COVID-19 has cost Delta $40,000 per person,” Bastian wrote in the memo. “This surcharge will be necessary to address the financial risk the decision to not vaccinate is creating for our company. In recent weeks since the rise of the B.1.617.2 variant, all Delta employees who have been hospitalized with COVID were not fully vaccinated.”

The new charge, Bastian said, will begin Nov. 1.

Unvaccinated Delta employees will also be subject to a number of other restrictions – including wearing masks “in all indoor Delta settings” effective immediately, and weekly testing beginning Sept. 12 – but Bastian stopped short of a full vaccine mandate. 

“We’ve always known that vaccinations are the most effective tool to keep our people safe and healthy in the face of this global health crisis,” Bastian wrote in the memo. “That’s why we’re taking additional, robust actions to increase our vaccination rate.”

Rival carrier United announced a vaccine mandate earlier this month; Following the FDA’s full approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine Monday, United moved the deadline for all employees to get vaccinated up to Sept. 27.

“I know some of you may be taking a wait-and-see approach or waiting for full FDA approval,” Bastian noted in his memo to Delta employees. “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. We can be confident that the Pfizer vaccine is safe and effective, and has undergone the same rigorous review for other approved medications to treat cancer and heart disease, as well as other vaccines.”

Bastian touted Delta's vaccination successes – including about 75% of the company's employees fully vaccinated and partnering with the state of Georgia to operate the state's largest mass vaccination site at the Delta Flight Museum – but said there is much more work to be done in the face of the highly contagious delta variant, which the company's chief health officer described as a "heat-seeking missile."

"According to [Delta Chief Health Officer, Dr. Henry Ting], while breakthrough cases among the vaccinated do occur, the vast majority of those are mild and often present no symptoms at all," Bastian wrote. "However, the variant has resulted in a significant rise in hospitalizations and deaths, almost entirely impacting those who have not yet been vaccinated."

"While we can be proud of our 75% vaccination rate, the aggressiveness of the variant means we need to get many more of our people vaccinated, and as close to 100% as possible," he added.