Skip to content

Delta won't hire you unless you've been vaccinated, CEO says

May 14, 2021
3 min read
CDC Vaccine card and masks
Delta won't hire you unless you've been vaccinated, CEO says
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Hoping to get a job with an airline as travel picks back up? You'd better get your shot. At one airline, at least.

Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian said on Thursday that the airline will require all new hires to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Want more airline-specific news? Sign up for TPG's free new biweekly Aviation newsletter!

Bastian's comments came during an interview with Richard Quest on CNN.

Existing employees will be encouraged to get the jab, but will not be penalized if they choose not to, Bastian said.

"I’m not going to mandate and force people if they have some specific reason why they don’t want to get vaccinated," Bastian said. "One caveat to that — any person joining Delta in the future we’re going to mandate they be vaccinated before they can sign up with the company."

More than 60% of Delta's staff has been vaccinated so far, the airline wrote in a blog post, and Bastian said that he expects an eventual rate of 75-80% among current employees. The airline has hosted vaccination clinics for employees at Atlanta Hartsfield–Jackson International Airport, its headquarters and largest hub.

The requirement for new hires takes effect on May 17, the airline said in the blog post, and will be waived for those who "qualify for an accommodation," although it was not clear what would be considered qualifying. At press time, the requirement was not listed in open job postings on Delta's website.

"This is an important move to protect Delta’s people and customers, ensuring the airline can safely operate as demand returns and as it accelerates through recovery and into the future," the airline said in the posted statement. "Vaccines are safe, effective and essential to the future of the airline and our world."

Sign up for our daily newsletter

More: Masks still required during air travel as CDC loosens indoor mask guidelines for fully vaccinated people

Delta is the first U.S. airline, and among the first major corporations, to implement a vaccine requirement. As discussion of compulsory vaccination in public and private workplaces has emerged, employers have noted the potential for lengthy litigation or other resistance, as the Washington Post reported.

However, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) said in December that employees can legally require that existing and new employees be vaccinated, providing that exceptions are allowed on medical or religious grounds.

Other airlines have not announced a similar vaccine requirement. Spokespersons for American, United and Southwest said there were no plans currently in place to require vaccinations, although the American Airlines spokesperson said that the airline is "strongly encouraging team members to get vaccinated and offering an incentive for those who do." Those incentives include a cash bonus and extra vacation days.

"[W]e don’t plan to require the vaccine unless it’s mandatory for entry into certain destinations," the American Airlines spokesperson added.

It was not immediately clear how Delta or the other airlines would contend with destinations that require vaccinations or lengthy quarantine periods. Although many countries have waived entry quarantine requirements for flight crews, it was not clear whether that would continue as borders reopen to vaccinated travelers.

Featured image by (Photo by Michael Siluk/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.