U.K. Airlines Are Asking Flight Attendants to Become Medical Responders Amid Coronavirus Crisis
EasyJet and Virgin Atlantic are asking cabin crew trained in emergency medical response to work in coronavirus wards
With many flight attendants out of a job due to the coronavirus outbreak, health officials in the United Kingdom want to put them back to work as medical responders to combat the global pandemic.
England’s National Health Service (NHS) said on their website Monday that they’ve enlisted easyJet and Virgin Atlantic to help recruit thousands of their trained staff members.
EasyJet has already written to all 9,000 of its U.K.-based staff, including 4,000 cabin crew who are trained in CPR, the NHS said, while Virgin Atlantic will write to approximately 4,000 of their employees that have required skills and training to join the frontlines.
Those who sign up will perform support roles under close supervision of nurses and senior clinicians on the wards at the NHS Nightingale Hospitals across the country.
The support workers will mostly be tasked with changing beds, doing other non-clinical tasks and helping doctors and nurses working on the wards, the NHS said.
“The NHS is mobilizing 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, the country’s chief nursing officer, said in a statement.
“Thousands of nurses, medics and other expert staff are returning to work alongside us, but we need everyone to do their bit,” she added.
The NHS said that expert training will be provided to all new-recruits when they sign up.
Tim Milton, Director of Cabin Services for easyJet, said in a statement, “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.”
Virgin Atlantic’s Chief Customer Officer Corneel Koster added, “We are very grateful to the NHS for everything they are doing in extremely challenging circumstances and we’re committed to doing all we can to support the national effort against the rapid acceleration of COVID-19.”
Staff and volunteers working at the new hospitals will also be offered free accommodation in hotels. They will have breakfast provided and lunch or dinner depending on the shifts that they are working, the NHS said.
As the coronavirus continues to spread globally, airlines have canceled and limited flights due to low demand and travel restrictions.
In order to minimize fallout from the situation, some American companies are cutting staff or reducing salaries for executives. Oscar Munoz, CEO of United, said he would forfeit his salary until June 30, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Delta CEO Ed Bastian made a similar announcement in a release from the company. And Southwest CEO Gary Kelly will incur a 10 percent pay cut. American Airlines’ Doug Parker has been paid only in company stock since 2015, WSJ reports.
Bastian announced earlier this month that the airline would be offering “voluntary short-term, unpaid leaves” to its employees. Norwegian Airlines, meanwhile, announced on March 16 that it would be temporarily laying off 90 percent of its workforce.
As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. To help provide doctors and nurses on the front lines with life-saving medical resources, donate to Direct Relief here.