Aircraft Cabin Management spoke with VP brand and communications at SAS – Scandinavian Airlines, Karin Nyman, to find out more about the airline’s commendable initiative to help the overburdened healthcare sector during the coronavirus crisis.

    The coronavirus outbreak has had a devastating effect on airlines around the world, with carriers everywhere dramatically reducing operations.

    In March, SAS announced it had been forced to temporarily halt most of its traffic. With flights at near standstill, the carrier also had to temporarily lay off up to 90 per cent of its total staff.

    However, with a well-educated, safety-conscious workforce that is prepared to meet unexpected and challenging situations in a calm and methodical way, it was apparent to SAS that these qualities were in high demand for the healthcare sector – now more than ever.

    To help the healthcare industry cope with the coronavirus pandemic, SAS has kicked off a ground-breaking voluntary scheme for its staff to work for the sector during the outbreak.

    SAS Scandinavian Airlines: VP brand communications
    VP brand and communications at SAS – Scandinavian Airlines, Karin Nyman

    Reaching out

    VP brand and communications at SAS – Scandinavian Airlines, Karin Nyman, explains how the idea was born.

    “We were facing a difficult situation due to the coronavirus outbreak which has resulted in demand for air travel becoming essentially non-existent,” she said.

    “This has meant we’ve had to temporarily halt most of our flights and lay off more than 10,000 employees, which is equivalent to 90 per cent of the total workforce.

    “We started this voluntary initiative because the healthcare sector is very stretched at the moment and we realised that our staff could help. We’re extremely proud of our highly skilled workforce.”

    Nyman says that, in addition to crew members taking part in special healthcare skills training when joining SAS, many have also actually already worked in the healthcare sector before.

    Expanding the initiative

    Nyman explains there are two stages in the airline’s healthcare initiative recruitment process.

    “In stage one, we have offered our hourly employees in Sweden the opportunity to apply and around 500 have applied so far. The first initiative was arranged together with Sophiahemmet and the Wallenberg Foundation and to that initiative there were about 300 applicants.”

    Nyman says the training course offered by Sophiahemmet, the airline’s partner, will take three days and staff are then ready to start work immediately.

    “Sophiahemmet is a privately owned healthcare company and they were able to quickly set up a tailored course based on our employees’ existing skills.”

    Stage two will allow the carrier’s other staff to join the initiative as the scheme is extended to all employees who are laid off.

    “We are also going to launch the scheme in Norway this coming week and Denmark will then follow,” Nyman explains, continuing that interest in the initiative is constantly growing also within other SAS employees as well as cabin crew. Departments such as IT and loading have important skills that can be very valuable to the healthcare sector.

    Regarding which healthcare sectors the SAS employees will be working for, Nyman says trained staff will be able to work in many different areas such as elderly care and care homes specialising in neurological conditions.

    “Another area the initiative will be supplying volunteers for is the pharmacy sector. Pharmacies are of course very busy at the time and our staff can help working in customer services, for example.”

    “We are incredibly proud of how this initiative has come together in such a short time, and of our wonderful staff members who have been involved in making it a reality,” Nyman sums up.

    In addition to this initiative, SAS invites authorities, institutions, businesses and voluntary organisations to make use of the competencies found in SAS until the airline is able to fly again.

    Visit flysas.com for more information.