The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated the airline industry and put thousands upon thousands of employees out of work worldwide. The UK is solving two problems with one swift move. The National Health Service (NHS) is aiming to put Virgin Atlantic and easyJet staff to work at its Nightingale hospitals as part of the fight against coronavirus.
“We have all needed the NHS at some point in our lives and so we are so proud that our crew can now help to support the NHS at this crucial time…The NHS is at the forefront of dealing with this health emergency but the training and skills our cabin crew have, working closely with the medical professionals, could help make a real difference.” – Tina Milton, Director of Cabin Services for easyJet
According to a Virgin Atlantic press release, the two airlines are asking staff who have not been working since the COVID-19 pandemic started to consider helping at the new hospitals being built across the country. These hospitals are being referred to as “Nightingale hospitals” as they are part of the larger Project Nightingale, which is the NHS’ organized response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Virgin Atlantic has had to ground roughly 85% of its fleet due to a lack of demand and strict travel restrictions around the world. easyJet has had to do the same for its fleet but specific numbers for the airline are unavailable. As a result over 13,000 employees across the two airlines may have the time to contribute to the urgent need.
“Thousands of staff are returning to work alongside us, but we need everyone to do their bit – whether that is working in one of our current health or social care services, working in the Nightingale Hospital, volunteering to help the NHS or staying home to save lives.” -Ruth May, chief nursing officer for England
In fact, budget carrier easyJet has written to its 9,000 UK based staff. Of this group, 4,000 are cabin crew who are trained in CPR. Virgin Atlantic will soon write to approximately 4,000 of its employees from Monday (30 March). The airline says it will prioritize those with the required skills and training.
Those who make the decision to sign up for this important work will perform clinical support roles. These jobs will fall under the close instruction of certified nurses and senior clinicians on the wards at the NHS Nightingale Hospitals across the country. Support workers can expect to change beds, tend to patients and assist doctors and nurses working on the wards.
The NHS has confirmed that these facilities are being built in London, Birmingham and Manchester while other additional sites are being considered. The most notable Nightingale hospital is the facility in London – which would otherwise normally be the ExCel Centre – a large exhibition and international convention center in East London.
“The NHS is mobilising like never before, but the scale of this challenge has not been seen in peacetime so we need all the support we can get.” – Ruth May, chief nursing officer for England
Why airline staff?
There are many aspects of the job that make airline workers a suitable fit. In fact, many airline staff are first aid trained or hold other clinical qualifications as well as being security cleared. Furthermore, NHS clinicians will oversee their work. Expert training will be provided to all new recruits when they sign-up as well.
“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
Staff and volunteers working at the new hospitals will be offered free accommodation. Those staying in the hotels will have breakfast provided and lunch or dinner depending on the time of shifts.
Those who accept the work will be paid as airline employees with support from the UK Government. However, signing-up for the work is voluntary. This was confirmed by a Virgin Atlantic spokesperson.
This sounds like an amazing opportunity to assist in the fight against this pandemic. The media has made the point over and over again that the greater public needs to support overworked and tired frontline health care workers. This looks like a great way to do so.
The job is not without its own risks, of course. However, many airline workers are excellent at dealing with people and working under stressful conditions, all the while putting on a brave face.
What do you think of this new initiative? Are there any negatives we’re missing? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.