Coronavirus: Delta to require new hires to be vaccinated

Delta Airlines will require new hires starting Monday to be vaccinated against the coronavirus, becoming the first major U.S. airline with a vaccine requirement policy.

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“Any person joining Delta in the future, we’re going to mandate that they be vaccinated before they can sign up with the company,” CEO Ed Bastien told CNN.

The vaccine will continue to be optional for current employees. The company said about 60% of its 75,000-person workforce has had at least one dose.

“I’m not going to mandate and force people if they have some specific reason why they don’t want to get vaccinated, but I am going to strongly encourage them and make sure they understand the risk to not getting vaccinated,” Bastian said.

Unvaccinated employees could be limited in the work they can do, including serving on international flights where other countries might require vaccinations.

Delta operates a vaccination center from its flight museum in Atlanta. The company said the policy is designed to protect employees and passengers. The decision comes as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention eased guidelines for mask wearing for people who are fully vaccinated. A federal rule in place since January still requires passengers and crews on planes and trains to cover their faces.

Other carriers have taken steps to increase vaccination rates among employees, but have not yet required them to get inoculated, the Washington Post reported.

American, United, Southwest and Alaska Airlines do not require vaccinations for current employees or new hires. American Airlines has encouraged employees to get vaccinated, offering extra vacation time and a $50 gift card to those who do.

Air travel has slowly increased since its low point in April 2020. On Thursday, Transportation Security Administration officers screened 1.74 million travelers, the highest number since March 2020. That figure is still 33% less than the same time in 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.