The airline business was one of the first industries to be badly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic as passenger numbers slumped way before social distancing measures were enforced worldwide and travel bans made normal travel all but a distant dream. As a result, hundreds of thousands of aviation workers have already been temporarily laid off and there’s no knowing when they might be needed again.
A couple of weeks ago, though, the idea of redeploying cabin crew and other airline workers with First Aid skills into healthcare settings to help in the Covid-19 response started to gain traction. Cabin crew had already been stood down long before other workers but they had some of the skills that could really help out struggling healthcare systems as Coronavirus patients threatened to overwhelm hospitals.
There were, of course, plenty of critics. This could never happen they argued, despite many cabin crew saying they would love to use the skills they did have to help out. Well, in these very unusual times anything can happens and now it looks like cabin crew really will be helping out in Covid-19 field hospitals.
In the United Kingdom, both Virgin Atlantic and low-cost carrier easyJet have been in talks with the government to redeploy their cabin crew into healthcare settings to help as the number of Covid-19 cases rise exponentially. Anyone taking up a job would be paid but redeployment is completely voluntary.
There are a variety of roles available and the volunteers will be taking on jobs that support expert clinicians – such as changing beds, doing administrative tasks or providing food and drink. Ambulance services are also calling on cabin crew to become call takers and ambulance drivers as the pandemic response ramps up.
The government was said to be impressed with just how qualified cabin crew were to take on these kinds of roles, considering the First Aid qualifications they already possess and the fact that they have passed rigorous background checks to work in the airline industry.
And it’s not just in the United Kingdom where cabin crew are being redeployed. In Sweden, a major university in offering a fast track healthcare course for some of the 10,000 temporarily laid off SAS employees. The Sophia Hemmet university said utilising cabin crew in the Covid-19 response would allow medics to provide better care to patients.
Meanwhile, in Australia, Qantas has been trying to find placements for its cabin crew in grocery store Woolworths. But with the number of Covid-19 cases quickly rising in the country, the Australian flag-carrier may well be considering copying the lead of the UK and Sweden in the coming days and weeks.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.