Over 1,000 air crew volunteer to support NHS staff

Airline crew from across the industry are volunteering to form ‘Project Wingman’ to support the well-being of frontline NHS staff during the coronavirus crisis.

More than 1,200 crew have responded to the “call to arms” while the majority of flights are grounded due to global travel restrictions.

They are helping NHS staff during and after their shifts from carriers including Norwegian, easyJet, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Tui, Jet2, Loganair and collapsed Flybe.

The project was launched at the Whittington Hospital in north London and has grown around the capital, with plans for groups in Edinburgh, Glasgow and York.

The aim is to create the atmosphere of an airline lounge for doctors, nurses and allied health professionals where they are provided with refreshments and a chance to unwind and talk.

Volunteer airline crew do not work directly with patients but support staff in a number of practical ways.

Project Wingman is in the process of expanding and offering similar services to hospital staff in the US, New Zealand, Japan and Australia.

Consultant clinical psychologist Professor Rob Bor said: “We want to look after the wellbeing of all of all frontline NHS staff.

“We immediately thought of airline staff and reached out to them to support us.

“Many airline crews have been grounded by the global effects of Covid-19 and we recognised that this represents a rich resource of a uniformed and disciplined workforce, used to problem-solving and providing care.

”We called on captain Dave Fielding of British Airways and captain Emma Henderson of easyJet, and between them, they have sent out a ‘call to arms’ to all air crew across every airline regardless of brand.”

Billal Draifi, Norwegian long-haul cabin crew member, is part of the recruitment team for Project Wingman and in charge of the training and induction of new volunteers,

“Frontline NHS staff are doing an incredible job under immense pressure and we are doing everything that we can to support and help them throughout this unprecedented situation,” Draifi said.

“Throughout the day my colleagues and I are proud to wear our Norwegian uniforms and to be joined by other airline colleagues from across the industry as part of Project Wingman.”

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