A group of Scandinavian Airlines employees who were laid off due to the coronavirus-sparked decrease in air travel are now learning new skills to help out in hospitals.
In mid-March Scandinavian Airlines, also known as SAS, announced the temporary layoff of up to 10,000 employees, or about 90 percent of its workforce, and now hundreds of those laid-off employees are being trained to assist in hospitals and nursing homes around Sweden.
The transition from flight attendant to caretaker is fairly natural as flight attendants are already required to undergo medical training for the job.
“We’re really good at being around people and taking care of people,” Mathilda Malm, a flight attendant who is now training to work in hospitals, told The Associated Press. “And we’re always prepared for every situation and we handle it in a calm way.”
The training program is a joint initiative between Stockholm’s Sofihemmet medical institution, the Novare recruitment firm, and the Wallenberg Foundation. The program has secured funding to train and pay 300 of the airline’s laid-off employees with hopes of increasing.
The newly-trained staff can alleviate nurses and nursing assistants by helping with non-medical related tasks. In Sweden, there are currently 5,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and at least 230 people have died from the disease.
Several other airlines around the world have similar plans to repurpose their temporarily laid-off employees. In Germany, many of Lufthansa’s temporarily laid-off employees are enrolling in government short-term work programs so they can retain most of their pay. Many of these employees are being given priority for medical training programs.
For airline workers in the U.S., the government has promised $50 billion in aid to airlines who have promised not to cut jobs for the next six months.