Furloughed Virgin Atlantic staff are set to become temporary check-out staff, supermarket shelf stackers and delivery drivers, and take on a wide range of other roles across various industries to support the national effort in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Airline employees are being redeployed to various roles, paid and voluntary, across the healthcare, grocery, retail and customer services sectors, with Virgin working with a number of organisations to provide roles for its staff.
Virgin has partnered with London Ambulance Service and Epsom Hospital Carshalton, while some staff have signed up for the new NHS Volunteer Responder scheme.
Elsewhere, it was revealed on Monday (30 March) cabin crew are being asked to consider roles at the new NHS Nightingale hospital at London’s ExCeL Centre.
The airline has also partnered with several major grocery retailers – including Tesco, Morrisons, Iceland, Lidl, Aldi, Asda, Waitrose, Co-op and Ocado – to assist their operations “with pressure on retail at an all-time high”.
”Retail giants are offering paid opportunities for people to help in-store replenishing stock and in service, as well as well as drivers,” said Virgin.
Corneel Koster, Virgin Atlantic’s chief customer officer, said: “We are very grateful to the NHS for everything they are doing in extremely challenging circumstances and we’re committed to doing all we can to support the national effort against the rapid acceleration of Covid-19.
“We are very proud of our highly skilled people at Virgin Atlantic, and since the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme was announced, we have been inundated with our people looking to help other organisations at this time of crisis.
“Many organisations have approached us with opportunities, both paid and voluntary, as they recognise the value and experience our people can bring.”
NHS tasks will include ambulance call handler and non-emergency ambulance assistance roles; building essential equipment to prepare for an influx of new Covid-19 cases; carrying out simple, non-medical tasks in the community such as supporting those self-isolating through delivering food and medication and offering phone support; and staffing the new Nightingale hospital.
“Virgin Atlantic is working with organisations in healthcare, grocery, retail and customer service to secure temporary and voluntary employment opportunities for its people,” said the airline.
“With the UK advising against all but essential travel and many countries shutting borders, customer demand for air travel is at an all-time low, and many Virgin Atlantic employees have been furloughed for the months of April and May in accordance with the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. However, other sectors continue to operate with unprecedented demand.”
Virgin added cabin crew’s medical and fire safety training stood them in good stead to assist the emergency services, while ground teams could transfer their skills to retail, charity and customer service roles.