About 8,000 of its 75,000 employees have tested positive for Covid-19 over the past four weeks, Delta Airlines CEO Ed Bastian said, absences that have marred the company’s financial results during a busy holiday travel season.
Delta reported a loss in the quarter and expected another loss for the first three months of the year due to the rapidly spreading omicron variable, but it did expect travel to start picking up again in late February.
A series of winter storms and airline crews sidelined by oomicron infection contributed to the cancellation of more than 20,000 industry-wide US flights between Christmas Eve and the first week of January. Scott Kirby, United Airlines CEO, said Monday that 3,000 of its 70,000 employees in the United States have tested positive for Covid.
Flight cancellations have been eased significantly in the past few days. Delta said its operations have since stabilized Thursday, with 1% of flights canceled over the past week due to Omicron.
After the quarterly results were announced, Bastian said in an interview with CNBC’s Squawk Box that employees who tested positive for the virus “do not have major health problems.”
Delta late last year updated its sick-leave policy for employees who tested positive for Covid-19, offering them five days of pay, out of sick banks, and two extra days if they test positive on the fifth day. Previously, employees got 10 days of paid vacation. It came after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance on COVID-19 quarantine, halving its recommendations to five days.
Delta and other airlines urged the CDC to make the change.
The largest flight attendant association in the United States has criticized Delta’s policy. Sarah Nelson, president of the Flight Attendants Association, tweeted last week that Delta is “telling workers across workgroups that they must come to work with symptoms even if a family member tests positive.” It also said that positive workers have been asked to “come to work after 5 days if the fever is less than 100.9, even if the tests are still positive.”
Delta has issued a cease and desist letter regarding the comments directed at the Federation, which is trying to regulate Delta’s flight attendants.
Bastian defended the policy and said it was based on the CDC’s guidance.
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