England’s NHS May Begin Hiring Airline Cabin Crew

It’s the unfortunate reality of the COVID-19 pandemic: many jobs will be lost. This is particularly true for the aviation sector, as travel restrictions severely limit international mobility at the moment. Even though some countries are slowly opening up, many airlines are still predicting a two to three-year period of recovery for the industry. This leaves many airline workers evaluating their short and long-term career options. In the UK, the National Health Service (NHS) may be an employment solution for some…

British Airways, like other carriers around the world, have been struck by the pandemic. Photo: British Airways

Jobs with the NHS?

According to the BBC, England’s NHS may start hiring airline staff who have found themselves out of a job. There seems to be sufficient crossover for the plan to work. In fact its chief executive, Sir Simon Stevens, says this move would fill a gap in nurse numbers, telling members of the UK Parliament that airlines had hired nurses from the NHS to work as cabin crew in the early 2000s.

IAG, British Airways, Job Consultation
Flag carrier British Airways has already furloughed 23,000 workers and has plans to cut 12,000 jobs. Photo: Geoff Caddick Press Association via British Airways

A 40,000-nursing staff gap

The BBC reports that the NHS in England currently has a nursing staff gap of 40,000. Sir Simon wants to see 50,000 nurses join the service. Given the tremendous shortfall in healthcare staff and the current oversupply of cabin crew, it seems like a straightforward and synergistic situation.

In fact, Britain’s largest carrier, British Airways, is seriously considering cutting 12,000 jobs. Furthermore, with Virgin Atlantic’s Gatwick base closure, 3,000 jobs have already been cut from the airline founded by Sir Richard Branson. Then we have to consider other airlines with bases and extensive operations in the UK, such as easyJet and Ryanair.

Not all the job cuts reported are cabin crew. Indeed, numbers released by airlines include everything from check-in and ticketing agents to ground crew. However, a significant portion will certainly be flight attendants.

Virgin atlantic livery
Virgin has said it won’t fly until at least August. Photo: Getty Images

Will it work?

There are certainly a few things to consider with this plan. The biggest factor is whether or not airline cabin crew will even want to transition into the health care sector. Indeed, while some crossover exists in terms of requiring a good “bedside manner” and hospitality skills, there is also a sizeable knowledge gap between the two fields. However, many cabin crew are already trained to perform basic first aid and CPR – which helps the situation slightly.

Of course, some airline cabin crew may already be working with the NHS. At the end of March, we reported that the NHS was aiming to put Virgin Atlantic and easyJet staff to work at its Nightingale hospitals as part of the fight against coronavirus.

“We are very proud of our highly skilled people at Virgin Atlantic and since the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme was announced, we have been inundated with our employees looking to help other organisations at this time of crisis. The NHS approached us with this unique opportunity as they recognise the value and experience our medically trained cabin crew and trainers will bring to the incredible Nightingale Hospital initiative.” – Corneel Koster, Chief Customer Officer at Virgin Atlantic


We will be very keen to see how this plan unfolds and if airline cabin crew will jump at any opportunities presented by the NHS. While it may not be the career path they initially signed up for, many experts are predicting difficult economic times ahead. Thus, a job offer of any sort may be better than no job at all.

Do you think UK-based cabin crew will want to transition into work at the NHS? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.