MIAMI – Ed Bastian, CEO of Delta Air Lines (DL) joined TODAY to talk about the COVID-19 vaccine, the need for a second stimulus package and the Boeing 737 MAX.

When asked if the vaccine would be mandatory at DL, Bastian stated that DL’s new contact tracing initiative, while voluntary, would be pushed more for international travel. “We have not decided on” mandatory vaccination for employees. The CEO stressed that it was important to reopen international travel, particularly to Europe, given the significant link it has with the US.

Bastian also comments that it is necessary to work with the CDC to have onboard contact tracing capabilities, again focusing more on international travelers coming in to the US, so the tool can be readily accessible at the moment it is needed on board.

The CEO says DL first needs to figure out how it will vaccinate its staff and front line workers. “I think for international travel, it will become a requirement,” says the CEO regarding employee vaccinations. “We will strongly encourage that airline employees get vaccinated.” This means that they will be given a priority in the matter so that they are “protected” from the virus.

Ed Bastion on the TODAY show.

Comments on a Second Stimulus Package

Bastian also discusses a potential second stimulus package for the airline industry, stating that federal relief was needed. “Within our industry,” Bastian says that airlines, including DL, are loosing money, but that DL has been able to get through this without any staff furloughs.

Still, the CEO reminded the TODAY’s host that there were tens of thousands of furloughed airline and airport employees. “A stimulus would help those employees” to get back to work, “so we support and encourage Congress to act on this measure.”

When asked if it was fair for airlines and not other business such as restaurant to get a government bailout first, Bastion was clear: “The airline stimulus is not a bailout.” The aviation industry has to pay back the money received in the form of loans,” and the stimulus “required us to keep our employees on payroll,” who are “deemed essential workers to our economy.”

As for the other types of industries, Bastian not judging the other industries, only echoed his initial remarks: “We need a broader stimulus package for this nation.”

Delta Air Lines does not own any Boeing 737 Max. Photo: Francesco Cecchetti

Regarding the Boeing 737 MAX

Wanting a comment on the FAA’s approval to fly the Boeing 737 Max again after it was grounded following two fatal crashes, The host asked Bastion if DL would fly the aircraft. The former clearly did not do his homework. “We don’t own that airplane. We decided not to purchase that plane” for reasons other than safety.

The aircraft is not in DL’s current fleet growth plans. However, the CEO did concede that in the future, when the MAX dust settled, sort of speak, and people feel “comfortable” flying the plane, the airline could consider acquiring the type.

Featured image: Delta Air Lines