• Archna Bhatt

A First Class Service For The NHS

Project Wingman 2020

IG: Project_Wingman2020


Hey Honey Bees, as you all are already aware, Covid-19 has been responsible for destroying many great things this year and Aviation wasn’t safe either. From Travel Agents shutting their offices to big boy Airlines scrapping their operations to almost 100%, it’s safe to say that Travel and Tourism heavily experienced the devastation that is Corona Virus.

The global border lockdown meant that a lot of countries had decided to halt all aircraft operations that involved non-essential travel. Whilst I flew in the middle of the pandemic repatriating many that were stranded, I requested my interest to be furloughed at the beginning of May; I felt restless because I wasn’t able to commute to the airport as effortlessly as I was able to before lockdown.

I was furloughed between May and June, needless to say I had a lot of free time on my hands. I busted my butt in daily home workouts to probably see me through to the end of the year, walked enough 5KM routes to wear holes into my brand new Nikes and participated in several Zoom quizzes with friends that I’ve not spoken to in more than 6/7 years. Surely there was more to this quarantine thing that everybody else has been doing for weeks on end? I reached out to a few friends, turns out there is not a lot to do apart from LITERALLY Netflix and chill.

I know I’m really rinsing this bee niche but, I’m used to being such a busy bee, that this lockdown thing was really affecting me, and most importantly my mental health. One week in and I was already growing a little tired of the same routine every day. That’s when I heard about this volunteer initiative that was being set up to support the mental wellbeing of the NHS.

I decided to dedicate my time somewhere a little productive and so I sent in my application for Project Wingman. I was quickly recruited to be a wingman, I myself was lucky enough to have been able to hop at different hospitals. I received countless “jokes” about Project Wingman in the beginning from quite a few myopic individuals. I mean, I guess it was mildly comical in the beginning, but every time I would post a story on the gram, it was the same old joke about how I should help pull on a night out. Mate, I can’t even pull for myself on a night out, I beg you leave your jokes out of my DM’s.

So, what is Project Wingman then?

Project Wingman is a group of airline crew from across every UK airline, united by our profession and dedicated to serving our NHS staff during this COVID-19 crisis. We provide a space to unwind, de-compress and de-stress before, during and after hospital shifts. Since NHS workers give first class treatment to their patients, our ‘First Class Lounges’ are our way of giving NHS staff the treatment they deserve. Furloughed, grounded, or made redundant by the COVID-19 crisis, we aircrew find ourselves in the unexpected circumstances of having the skills and time to help those most in need of a smile.

Crew are all trained in human factors and how to communicate with colleagues who are in stressful situations. We fellow uniformed professionals understand what it is like to operate in a highly disciplined, regulated and pressured environment. This goes a long way in bonding and shared experience and empathy. Medical staff need to talk about their job with people who can empathise with the pressures involved. Whether it’s talking to a cabin crew member about their travels, or being handed a cup of tea by a pilot, our uniformed and dedicated airline crew are putting smiles on the faces of NHS workers across the country.

The independent, NHS support initiative, launched by members of the airline community, was proud to have received charitable status. Created to offer support to NHS workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, Project Wingman enlisted almost 5000 volunteer pilots and cabin crew from every UK airline. Working together in over 40 specially built Wingman First Class Lounges in hospitals throughout the UK, the volunteer crews offer much needed service and support to all NHS workers.

Having been established as the scale and impact of the pandemic was realised, the Project Wingman Foundation gained charitable status, and just three weeks after being first registered.

I shared my shifts between King Cross St. Pancras and St. Georges Hospital, not too far from Wimbledon, where I was Quarantining with my best friend Charlotte. On a regular day at the hospital, we would make teas and coffees for the staff, hold quizzes in exchange for prizes, dance in a little corner in the break room to entertain everyone and even receive deliveries sent in by huge companies like Innocent Smoothies, Tesco, Tyrells and many more. Being the OCD freak that I am, I remember enjoying organising all the snacks and goodies into little trays and baskets (while maybe eating them too). My favourite used to be the Innocent smoothies we used to get delivered, they were a big hit at the St. Georges Hospital. I even arranged a quirky appearance as a Miss Intercontinental Finalist on one of the days, where I talked all things pageant, the staff loved it!

I was taken off furlough towards the end of July and so my volunteering quickly came to a halt, and I had to say a bitter-sweet goodbye to all the staff I met across all the other airlines and the staff I got to know at the hospitals. Even though this initiative was set up for the NHS, I think I can speak for many PW staff and say that this helped our mental health just as much as them and even took away some of the worries regarding the status of our jobs in the months to come. Some crew at PW have even landed permanent jobs with the hospitals in different departments because they were so impressed with us! It just goes to show that when you help others without expecting anything in return, it can help you feel a lot better and shift your focus away from any negativity in your life!

I even received the cutest badge of honor from Project Wingman in the post the other day with a little card to thank me for all my efforts. Best believe I'll be wearing this so much pride!

Here’s a little YouTube video which I managed to make with the help of one of my PW gals:

Thank you so much for reading, please don’t forget to share, like and comment... I would love your support! Don't forget to check out Project Wingman on their website and IG:

IG: Project_Wingman2020


If you are a business that would like to donate to project wingman, please contact via the link above!

Love and buzz,

The Archive

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