Delta Air Lines will require new employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 starting Monday.
The airline won’t impose the same requirement on current employees, more than 60% of whom are vaccinated, a Delta spokesman said Friday. Delta has about 74,000 employees.
American, United, Southwest and Alaska airlines, however, said they do not plan to require vaccination for current employees or new hires. American Airlines said it gives vaccinated employees an extra vacation day and a $50 gift card.
Delta's decision comes as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that fully vaccinated Americans can stop wearing face masks in most settings. But a federal rule imposed in January still requires passengers and crews on airlines and trains to cover their faces.
Delta CEO Ed Bastian told CNN he will encourage current employees to get vaccinated but won’t require it “if there is some philosophical issue they have” against getting the shots. However, he said, unvaccinated employees probably won’t be able to work on international flights because foreign governments are likely to require vaccination for anyone entering their countries.
Delta, which operates a vaccination center at its flight museum in Atlanta, says the new policy is designed to protect other employees and passengers as travel recovers from last year’s lows during the worst of the pandemic.
Air travel has risen gradually since hitting a low point in April 2020, with the recovery gaining speed in recent weeks. On Thursday, the Transportation Security Administration screened 1.74 million people. That was the highest number of people at U.S. airports since March 2020, although it was still 33% below the figure for the comparable day in 2019.