Airlines across the world have grounded planes and temporarily laid-off workers, but companies in Sweden and the United Kingdom are encouraging flight attendants to retrain to help hospitals with the coronavirus crisis.
SAS Scandanavian Airlines is helping cabin crews use their existing medical emergency training to learn how to “best how to take care of patients to relieve the hard-working heroes in healthcare.” The airline said one flight crew underwent training at Sophiahemmet hospital in Stockholm, Sweden. Another crew in Norway is also gearing up to help out.
In the United Kingdom, some flight attendants for EasyJet and Virgin Atlantic have volunteered to help out at the new National Health Service (NHS) hospitals being set up specifically for coronavirus patients.
Cabin crew members who sign up to help would perform clinical support roles at the NHS “Nightingale” field hospitals that are being built in London, Birmingham and Manchester, EasyJet said in a statement.
The airline staff who sign up will be provided training to learn to change beds and help make coronavirus patients comfortable. Many of them have already been trained in first aid, hold other medical qualifications and have undergone security checks, which position them well to provide needed support to the NHS, EasyJet said in a statement.
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Virgin Atlantic said its crews will also perform clinical support roles, and the staff and volunteers working at the new hospitals will be offered free accommodation and meals.
“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 organizations at this time of crisis,” said Virgin Atlantic Chief Customer Officer, Corneel Koster, in a statement.
EasyJet has been working with the NHS to enable its employees to volunteer to directly support clinical services in hospitals.
One EasyJet cabin crew member says he worked for an NHS Trust before he joined the airline industry and he understands the pressure NHS workers are under right now. Ashley Brown says he jumped at the chance to volunteer because he is grateful to the NHS workers for all they are doing for coronavirus patients.
“Cabin crew are in a good position to help because of the first aid training we receive for our job along with the security checks we undergo. So I am sure I will be joined by many of my fellow crew at EasyJet and I am glad we are able to help,” Brown said.
Airline companies around the world have had to idle crews and other staff due to the coronavirus pandemic.
With most of its operation on hold since March 16th due to the minimal demand for air travel, SAS has temporarily laid off 90% of its total workforce.
CNN’s Lauren Kent contributed to this report.