EasyJet cabin crew who are on furlough will be trained to administer coronavirus vaccines as the government rolls-out mass vaccination centres across the country.
The airline wrote to Prime Minister Boris Johnson in November offering to help with the mass immunisation programme, and is now training staff in how to administer the jabs as volunteers.
The government aims to deliver the vaccine to more than 15 million people over the next six weeks. EasyJet has more than 3,000 crew who could meet the requirements for first aid training and security clearance, and operates routes out of key cities including London, Bristol, Manchester, Liverpool, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Belfast.
As with every other airline, the company has been operating a reduced schedule due to pandemic travel restrictions. In May 2020, it announced it would make 30% of staff redundant, the equivalent of 4,500 jobs.
EasyJet CEO Johan Lundgren said: “The progress the country is making on the vaccination programme is an exciting and much-needed development.
“Once rolled out, it will enable normal life to return and is undoubtedly the key to unlocking travel again and enabling travel for work, to visit friends and family or for a much-needed holiday.
“We are pleased and proud to be able to play our part and stand by ready to support wherever else we can.”
Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust is one of the first Trusts to bring easyJet staff onto its immunisation team.
Chief executive Elliot Howard-Jones said they will receive further training: “Their first-aid and caring skills will make them ideally suited to help deliver the huge task we currently face, to give those most at risk protection against the Covid-19 virus.”
Katy Bryant, a member of cabin crew based in nearby Luton, said she was grateful to the NHS and other frontline healthcare workers, and had applied to become a vaccinator so she could help the cause.
“When the opportunity came for cabin crew to assist the NHS as vaccinators I knew I wanted to apply.
“As cabin crew we are in a great position to support the vaccination effort because of the first aid and safety-focused training we receive for our job, so I am sure I will be joined by many of my fellow cabin crew at easyJet who will want to support the NHS in the vital roll-out of the vaccine across the country.”
EasyJet’s pledge of support comes as customs operators have written to the government asking for it to prioritise vaccines for front-line staff checking that suppliers coming into the UK comply with post-Brexit customs requirements.
Rod McKenzie of the Road Haulage Association said customs agents were “absolutely swamped” and “understaffed by tens of thousands”, meaning any outbreak of Covid could slow the traffic of goods into the UK and deplete the workforce further.
“Although volumes have been light thanks to pre-Christmas and pre-Brexit stockpiling, we are approaching a critical point,” he said.