Delta Air Lines, which has expanded its presence in Alaska this summer, announced that it is mandating that all new employees submit to the COVID shot.
The order went into effect on May 17 and will impact any newly hired employees. According to the Delta’s website it is currently hiring baggage handlers and ticket agents in Anchorage.
In March, Delta announced a significant expansion of service to Alaska this summer, including added flights to Anchorage and Fairbanks – as well as the return of seasonal destinations like Juneau, Ketchikan and Sitka. The new schedule includes additional flights to Detroit, Los Angeles, New York, Minneapolis, Salt Lake City, Atlanta and Seattle.
The airline is the latest company to force employees to receive the experimental COVID vaccines, which have only been approved for emergency use. Since many Americans are declining to take the shots, Delta is not currently requiring existing employees to submit to a COVID jab.
A statement on the airline’s website claims that 60% of its 75,000 employees are vaccinated.
“To help maintain this trajectory, Delta will require all new hires in the U.S. to be vaccinated against COVID-19, unless they qualify for an accommodation, effective Monday, May 17,” the website states. “Delta will not be putting in place a company-wide mandate to require current employees to be vaccinated.”
The vaccine mandate for new hires seems to reflect Delta CEO Ed Bastian enthusiasm for COVID shots. Speaking to NBC News in December, he said he “can’t wait to get vaccinated,” and that he is going to “strongly encourage” airline employees to do the same.
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In the same interview, Bastian said he hasn’t ruled out mandating vaccinations for passengers as well, but he thinks that might become standard practice without the airlines having to make the final call on a highly contentious issue.
“I think for international travel, it will become a requirement,” Bastian said. “Whether it’s the airline does it or some international authorities do it.”
Currently, Delta requires all passengers to confirm that they do not have COVID symptoms or a COVID diagnosis in the past 10 days before traveling. They are also required to wear masks throughout their travel, as are employees.
The airline also strongly encourages all passengers entering the U.S. to provide contact information upon entry.