Delta Airlines CEO takes defiant stand against vaccine mandates, praises ‘respecting’ employees — not forcing them to get vaccinated

Delta Airlines CEO Ed Bastian took a stand against COVID-19 vaccine mandates this week, saying his decision not to impose a mandate on his employees is the reason most of Delta’s employees are vaccinated.

Speaking on Fox Business, Bastian said Delta has accomplished a vaccination rate of more than 90% without “the divisiveness of a mandate.”

“The reason the mandate was put in by president, I believe, was because they wanted to make sure companies had a plan to get their employees vaccinated,” Bastian said. “A month before the president came out with the mandate, we had already announced our plan to get all of our people vaccinated. And the good news is the plan is working.”

“By the time we’re done, we’ll be pretty close to fully vaccinated as a company without going through all the divisiveness of a mandate,” Bastian explained.

“We’re proving that you can work collaboratively with your people, trusting your people to make the right decisions, respecting their decisions and not forcing them over the loss of their jobs,” he added.

In August, Delta Airlines announced, not a vaccine mandate, but a health insurance surcharge for unvaccinated employees.

Beginning Nov. 1, unvaccinated employees enrolled in Delta’s account-based healthcare plan will be subject to a $200 monthly surcharge. The average hospital stay for COVID-19 has cost Delta $50,000 per person. 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.

Bastian told Fox Business he expects Delta’s vaccination rate to rise another 5% in the next month. Combined with religious and medical exemptions, nearly all of Delta’s staff will then be vaccinated — all without a mandate.

What did Biden announce?

Biden issued a COVID-19 vaccine mandate last month for all federal contractors. The mandate impacts several major airlines, including Delta Airlines, because they contract business with the federal government. Biden’s mandate gives contractors until Dec. 8 to comply.

Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly condemned Biden’s vaccine mandate this week, saying he disagrees with such policies, but said he is enforcing one on Southwest employees only because of Biden’s mandate.

I’ve never been in favor of corporations imposing that kind of a mandate. I’m not in favor of that. Never have been,” Kelly said on CNBC. “But the executive order from President Biden mandates that all federal employees and then all federal contractors, which covers all the major airlines, have to have a [vaccine] mandate … in place by Dec. 8, so we’re working through that.”