British airlines ask furloughed workers to help at coronavirus hospitals

British airlines are asking thousands of staffers whom they’ve temporarily put out of work to lend a hand at special coronavirus hospitals. Virgin Atlantic and easyJet are making the request to workers at the behest of the UK’s National Health Service, which is building three field hospitals to treat coronavirus patients, officials said Monday. The …

British airlines are asking thousands of staffers whom they’ve temporarily put out of work to lend a hand at special coronavirus hospitals.

Virgin Atlantic and easyJet are making the request to workers at the behest of the UK’s National Health Service, which is building three field hospitals to treat coronavirus patients, officials said Monday. The airlines have grounded most or all of their planes and put staff on leave as the pandemic tanked demand for air travel.

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 health system’s chief nursing officer for England, said in a statement.

The National Health Service says it wants airline crew members with crucial skills such as first aid and CPR to help doctors and nurses at the so-called Nightingale hospitals being built in London, Manchester and Birmingham. The support workers will change beds and perform other “non-clinical” tasks under the supervision of clinicians, officials said.

EasyJet has already asked its 9,000 UK-based staff to enlist in hospital work, including 4,000 cabin crew with CPR training, the NHS said. The budget airline grounded all of its planes Monday and furloughed those cabin workers, who will get 80 percent of their average pay under the UK government’s job retention program.

Virgin Atlantic — which plans to park 85 percent of its planes in April and has asked staff to take eight weeks of unpaid leave — will make the request to about 4,000 workers starting Monday, according to the NHS.

“The NHS is at the forefront of dealing with this health emergency but the training and skills our cabin crew have, working closely with the medical professionals, could help make a real difference,” Tina Milton, easyJet’s director of cabin services, said in a statement.

Staff and volunteers at the NHS field hospitals will get free accommodations, officials said. It’s unclear how much pay the airline staff will receive for their hospital work.

With Post Wires

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