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

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  • The absence contributed to the cancellation of thousands of US flights since Christmas Eve.
  • CEO Ed Bastian said Delta’s operations have stabilized.
  • The nation’s largest flight attendant union criticized Delta’s new sick leave policy.

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Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian said nearly 8,000 of its 75,000 employees tested positive for Covid-19 in the past four weeks, an absence that impacted the company’s financial results during a busy holiday travel season.

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Delta reported losses for the quarter and another forecast for the first three months of the year due to the fast-spreading Omicron version, but predicted travel would resume in late February.

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

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Flight cancellations have eased a lot in the last few days. Delta’s operations have since stabilized on Thursday, with Omicron causing 1% of flights to be canceled in the past week.

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

Delta updated its sick-leave policy late last year for employees who test positive for COVID-19, providing them with five days’ pay outside sick banks, and a payday if they test positive on the fifth day. Offer additional two days. Earlier, employees used to get 10 days paid leave. After the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidelines for COVID quarantine, its recommendation was put on hold for five days.

Delta and other airlines urged the CDC to make changes.

Delta’s policy was criticized by the largest American airline operators association. Sarah Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants, tweeted last week that Delta is “telling workers in work groups they should come to work/symptomatic even if someone in the home has tested positive.” She also said that positive workers were “asked to return to work after 5 days if the fever is less than 100.9, even if the test is positive.”

Delta issued a cease-and-desist letter over the comments to the union, which Delta’s flight attendants are attempting to settle.

Bastian defended the policy, saying it was based on CDC guidance.

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