Coronavirus: BA mobilises volunteer task force after staff furloughs

A British Airways volunteer taskforce is being created to help the fight against the coronavirus crisis across the UK.

Cabin and flight crew aim to provide support to the NHS and other organisations.

Others in the airline who specialise in the logistics behind getting 800 flights a day to 200 destinations around the world can also benefit the wider community.

The effort follows the airline agreeing to furlough 36,000 staff on Thursday.

The airline has been in talks with a number of organisations to deploy the volunteers most usefully.

These include the NHS and could involve working at the Nightingale hospitals being set up in London, Manchester and Birmingham  as well as transporting patients and NHS workers.

Volunteers who have first aid training and clinical skills are being paired up with St John Ambulance and London Ambulance Service to take 999 or 111 calls.

An existing partnership with the British Red Cross provides support for its UK response work and the airline will be encouraging more staff to sign up to a community reserve volunteer network to provide practical assistance in local communities.

Volunteers will be encouraged to reach out to older and more vulnerable people with help via Age UK to collect prescriptions, food drop-offs or helping to combat loneliness with a daily phone call.

Volunteering duties for staff at food banks providers such as Trussell Trust could include sorting and packing food donations, collecting supplies from supermarkets and delivering food to people in greatest need.

BA is also donating its on board wash bags, socks and blankets to NHS Trusts and continues to work with agency partners to offer help where it is most needed.

Flight crew from BA and other airlines have set up Project Wingman at the Whittington Hospital in north London, where NHS workers are welcomed into a mini first class lounge for tea and a chat during or after a busy shift.

Money that passengers and employees have raised through Flying Start, the airline’s partnership with Comic Relief, is also being used towards a Covid-19 response.

BA has been collaborating with the Foreign Office to fly people home before borders close and sister company IAG Cargo has been flying essential freight including food and medicines across the globe to communities in need.

BA external communications and sustainability director Louise Evans said: “We’ve had an overwhelming response to our request for volunteers from across British Airways to help in the community fight against coronavirus.

“We’re part of the fabric of Britain and we want to play our role in these unprecedented times.

“Thanks to the nature of our business, we can contribute a unique set of skills from advanced first aid training, to experience caring for and reassuring people to managing complex logistics – all of which can deliver real care within the community.”

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