Delta CEO says that 8000 employees have tested positive for Covid in the last 4 weeks

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

Mario Tama | Getty pictures

Delta Air Line’s CEO Ed Bastian said around 8,000 of the 75,000 employees tested positive for Covid-1[ads1]9 over the past four weeks, an absence that has ruined the company’s financial performance during a busy holiday season.

Delta reported a loss for the quarter and forecast a new one for the first three months of the year due to the rapidly spreading omicron variant, but forecast travel will begin to pick up again at the end of February.

A series of winter storms and flight crews on the sidelines of omicron infections contributed to more than 20,000 US flight cancellations across the industry between Christmas Eve and the first week of January. United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby said Monday that 3,000 of the nearly 70,000 U.S. employees were positive about Covid.

Flight cancellations have decreased significantly in recent days. Delta’s operation has since stabilized, said Thursday, with 1% of flights canceled in the last week due to omicron.

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

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

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

The largest American pilots’ association criticized Delta’s policy. Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants, tweeted last week that Delta “tells workers across workgroups that they should come to work with symptoms even if someone in the household tested positive.” She also said that positive workers were asked to “come to work after 5 days if the fever is below 100.9, even though they are still testing positive.”

Delta sent out a stop-and-refrain letter over the comments to the union, which is trying to organize Delta’s flight attendants.

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

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