Delta CEO says 8,000 employees have tested positive for Covid in past 4 weeks

A Delta Air Lines employee works on the departures level at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) on August 25, 2021 in Los Angeles, California.

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Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian said about 8,000 of its 75,000 employees have tested positive for Covid-19 in the past four weeks, absences that have marred the company’s financial results for a busy holiday season.

Delta reported a loss for the quarter and forecast another for the first three months of the year due to the fast-spreading omicron variant, but travel is expected to start rebounding again in late February.

A series of winter storms and airline crews sidelined by omicron infections contributed to more than 20,000 U.S. flight cancellations industry-wide between Christmas Eve and the first week of January. United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby said Monday that 3,000 of his nearly 70,000 U.S. employees tested positive for Covid.

Flight cancellations have dropped significantly in recent days. Delta’s operation has since stabilized, we learned Thursday, with 1% of flights canceled over the past week due to omicron.

The employees who tested positive had “no significant health issues,” Bastian said in an interview with CNBC’s “Squawk Box” after releasing the quarterly results.

Delta late last year updated its sick leave policy for employees who test positive for Covid-19, offering them five days pay, outside of sick banks, and two additional days if they test positive on the fifth day. Previously, staff had 10 days of paid vacation. It came after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidelines for Covid quarantine, halving its recommendation to five days.

Delta and other airlines had urged the CDC to make the change.

The largest US flight attendant union has criticized Delta’s policy. Sara Nelson, president of the Flight Attendants Association tweeted last week that Delta is “telling workers in all workgroups that they should come to work with symptoms even if someone in the household has tested positive. “. She also said positive workers should “come back to work after 5 days if the fever is below 100.9, even if they are still positive”.

Delta sent a cease and desist letter about the comments to the union, which is trying to organize Delta flight attendants.

Bastian defended the policy and said it was based on CDC guidelines.

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