It is troublesome to fly Covid vaccines within the US

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Ed Bastian, Delta Air Lines CEO, told CNBC on Tuesday the airline did not plan to require Covid vaccines for domestic travel.

“It’s very difficult for us to get a vaccine that isn’t even federally approved. The approval is not yet final, so stay tuned, “said Bastian on” Squawk Box “.

“We continue to encourage our own people and our customers to get vaccinated as much as possible. The number of vaccinations is increasing, ”he said.

More and more employees and customers have recently received their Covid vaccinations as the Delta variant, first discovered in India, became the dominant variety in the US, Bastian said.

He added that 73% of the airline’s staff are fully vaccinated.

Many companies are discussing whether they should implement vaccination regulations or just motivate more employees and customers to vaccinate. The discussion has intensified as the more contagious Delta variant continues to infect largely unvaccinated areas of the United States, causing the seven-day average daily case number to recently surpass the peak of last summer.

However, Bastian said that Delta’s flights were more than 90% booked over the weekend as people “learn to deal and live with the coronavirus pandemic”. He said the airline carries millions of people every week, the vast majority of whom are vaccinated and fully masked.

The Transportation Security Administration extended a state mask mandate for air, rail and bus travel to mid-September in the spring, a measure that is expected to be extended unless infection rates drop sharply.

The travel industry was particularly hard hit by the pandemic, with travel restrictions to curb the spread of the virus having a strong impact on demand and bookings. Domestic airlines lost more than $ 35 billion last year.

Since January, the US government has required travelers, including citizens, to provide evidence of a recent negative Covid test before entering the US. Some nations require proof of vaccination to enter the country or avoid quarantine.

“I assume that with the further opening of these borders you will see more and more of these requirements. Here in the USA I do not consider that to be necessary,” said Bastian.

Delta and United Airlines also require proof of vaccination for new hires. Delta, United, and American Airlines have offered vaccinated employees additional time off or pay, and are joining large employers like Walmart who have taken similar steps.

Ted Christie, CEO of Spirit Airlines, told CNBC that the airline is urging all passengers and employees to get Covid vaccinations and use face covers, even though the budget airline has no plans to implement vaccine requirements.

Back in January, United CEO Scott Kirby said the airline was considering a Covid vaccine mandate for the company’s entire workforce. The airline has not yet made the vaccine mandatory for all employees.

Two of the three Covid vaccines currently on sale in the US, two shots from Pfizer and Moderna, were cleared for emergency use by the US Food and Drug Administration in late December. These two companies have applied for full approval. Johnson & Johnson’s one-off Covid vaccine received emergency approval in February, but J&J has not yet applied for full approval.

– CNBC’s Leslie Josephs contributed to this report.