May 14 (Reuters) - Delta Air Lines (DAL.N) will require all new hires in the United States to be vaccinated against COVID-19, one of the first major companies to issue such a mandate.
"Any person joining Delta in the future, future employees, we're going to mandate they be vaccinated before they can sign up with the company," Chief Executive Ed Bastian told CNN in an interview late Thursday.
Delta is not making the requirement for current employees, he said. More than 60% of Delta's employees are already vaccinated, according to the company.
While private U.S. companies can require employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19, experts have said they could put themselves at risk of legal and cultural backlash if they do so.
Delta's Bastian noted, however, that employees who are not vaccinated may not be able to work on international flights given possible entry requirements by other countries.
"We know that vaccines are the best tool we have to protect one another and bring an end to the pandemic," Delta said in a statement on Friday. It called the move to require vaccines for new hires important as "our business recovers and demand for air travel continues to rise."
Delta is among U.S. airlines that plan to resume pilot hiring this year after a freeze on hires during the pandemic.
Among its large peers, United Airlines' (UAL.O) CEO Scott Kirby said in January that he may mandate vaccinations for employees and called on other companies to do the same but has yet to make a move in that direction.
A United spokeswoman on Friday said there was no change to the company's policy.
American Airlines (AAL.O) said it does not plan to require the vaccine unless it is mandatory for entry into certain destinations. To encourage inoculation, it has offered employees who get the vaccine an additional vacation day in 2022 and a $50 gift card.
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