With no plan to help out the UK aviation industry decimated by the COVID-19 pandemic, a British government minister has told laid-off cabin crew to retrain as nurses and carers in old peoples homes. In an interview with The Spectator, work and pensions secretary Therese Coffey said she thought the thousands of unemployed cabin crew, pilots and engineers were ripe for retraining… including in the country’s struggling health service.
“I want to encourage them to perhaps go into teaching or go to college and to be the people who train the next lot of people who are going to do those jobs,” Coffey told the right-wing magazine.
Coffey justified the call for cabin crew to embrace a complete career change because “the industry themselves think they are going to struggle for a few years and won’t be back into full normal elements until 23/24 at the earliest”. The country’s largest trade union described her comments as “crass” and “ill-informed”.
“How do we help draw out of them the transferable skills that they have and that could be working in social care? It may not be their dream job for the rest of their lives. But it may well be very useful,” the government minister continued.
“They get more money coming in than if they’re on benefits and it can also provide something really valuable and rewarding so there are those sorts of things where we are going to try and help people think through what it is they can do, even if it is only for the next two to three years.”
Attempting to challenge the outdated view that only women go into nursing jobs, Coffey continued: “I’m sure other cabin crew as well who are male could make equally good nurses. It’s just whether or not people want that as a complete lifestyle change.”
Unlike a number of other European countries, the British government has refused to provide aviation industry-specific support to help airlines survive the Corona crisis. Government ministers have repeatedly told airlines, including Virgin Atlantic, to exhaust all commercial financing options before approaching the government for a bailout.
Many airlines don’t believe the demand for air travel will return to pre-COVID levels until around 2023 to 2024 and have laid off thousands of cabin crew, pilots and other workers in order to shore up their finances.
“Therese Coffey’s comments are just crass. They are as insensitive as they are ill-informed and only serve to show how out of touch government is,” blasted the Unite union’s Oliver Richardson.
“Tens of thousands of aviation workers have already lost their jobs. Her focus as minister of work should be on saving as many jobs as possible, not throwing in the towel on a vitally important sector of the economy,” he continued.
In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, cabin crew were seen as the ideal people to help out in overwhelmed hospitals but a longterm career change might not be what many were expecting.
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.