Delta Says 90 Percent Of Airline's Workers Are Vaccinated Without Mandate

Delta Air Lines has said that 90 percent of its employees are already vaccinated. The airline is the only major U.S. carrier to not mandate COVID-19 vaccines for employees.

Rival airlines are mandating vaccines after a recent order by President Joe Biden requiring federal contractors to vaccinate their employees by December 8. Delta is among the major U.S. carriers to qualify as a federal contractor because of government contracts to provide airlift flights.

However, Delta continues to offer regular testing as an alternative, although it will impose a $200 monthly surcharge on unvaccinated employees enrolled in the company's health care plan from next month.

In a news release announcing the airline posted around $1.2 billion profit for the third quarter, Delta said about 90 percent of its 80,000-strong workforce had been vaccinated as of Monday "as Delta continues to prioritize the health and safety of our people."

Delta Air Lines fight arrives at LAX
Delta Air Lines Boeing 767-332 arrives at Los Angeles international Airport on November 11, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images

CEO Ed Bastian told the Associated Press that the figure will rise to 95 percent by November.

He argued that if a high number of employees are vaccinated, a mandate should not be necessary. Bastian said he had discussed the matter with Biden administration officials, but did not disclose the details.

"Mandates are one way to get people vaccinated," he said. "What we're showing is there are alternative means by which we can get people vaccinated and still meet the substance of the requirements. We will assess if we need to, but I trust we'll be effectively vaccinated."

In an interview with CNBC's Squawk Box on Wednesday, Bastian said Delta's plan to vaccinate employees "is working" and avoids the "divisiveness" of a mandate.

"I'm proud of the people stepping up and making the right decision," Bastian said.

"We haven't done it with a mandate. We have done it working collaboratively with our people, trusting our people to make the right decisions for themselves, respecting their decisions, but at the same time avoiding the divisiveness of what the mandate is posing to society."

In contrast, United Airlines issued a company mandate in August requiring employees to get fully vaccinated by October 25 or face termination. By late September, the airline said more than 97 percent of its U.S. employees were vaccinated.

American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, JetBlue Airways and Alaska Airlines told employees in recent weeks that staff must be vaccinated under the federal rules to continue their employment.

Delta has been contacted for additional comment.