Lockdown. ‘You’re on mute.’ Banana Bread (because let’s face it, who didn’t attempt to bake one of these in lockdown). These are all words I think most of us cannot wait to see the back of. The COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating for pretty much everyone, but the battle faced by those within aviation has been particularly brutal, and in many ways, is only half finished.
Rewind to January 2020. Whispers of a virus were beginning to cross the globe. Coronavirus? Covid-19? What was it even called? There was a distinct lack of understanding for just how much this virus was going to change our lives.
Fast forward to March 2020. SARS- CoV-2 (otherwise known as Covid-19), was beginning to wreak havoc on airline schedules within the UK and across the world. Mass cancellation of flights, ab-initio courses, and non-compulsory training were affecting every airline.
Repatriation flights were beginning, and aircraft were being flown to various locations for storage. The threat suddenly felt very real, it was truly an international crisis. However, for most of us on the 23rd March 2020, when Boris Johnson (the UK Prime Minister) broadcast on national Television that the UK was entering a national lockdown, we couldn’t imagine that one year on, we would be where we are today.
For myself, having been on a repatriation flight on the 23rd, I know as we sat in galley four, scared but defiant, we all felt the grounding would affect us for a month, maybe two at most. We’d be back in the air, offering ‘tea or coffee’ to our passengers quicker than we could click our heels together three times and wish we were back in the sky. After all, we’d gone through 9/11, Ebola, SARS, the financial crash, we had always bounced back quickly!
How wrong we were...
One year on, and airline schedules are nowhere near normal. Corporate structures have been refocused, and many airlines have had to downsize in order to ensure survival. Governments are still enforcing border closures and ensuring customer confidence in cleanliness is now the priority. With limited income for airlines, expenditure has had to be minimised, which sadly meant the workforce of the amazing people that call aviation their passion, has been cut, leaving so many displaced, disheartened, and disappointed.
Having flown under three different operators as cabin crew, it’s no secret that I truly am in a life-long love affair with my role. Sadly, the pandemic was bigger than me and in August 2020, my time in the skies was temporarily cut short through compulsory redundancy. I’ve therefore lived every single second of the pandemic’s emotional rollercoaster.
In late 2020, my colleague Tom (an A320 rated pilot) was reading through legislation documents, mandating the need for airlines to put a full ‘Peer Support program’ in place for all Pilots. There was no mention of any other airline roles in the document. As an MSc student in Human Factors, I can second this is something that is seemingly neglected.
Whilst Resilient Pilot is not a Peer Support specialist company, they provide an outlet for Pilots to discuss challenges they are facing and offer resources to help with their wellbeing. The wellbeing of Pilots is considered paramount due to the understanding they are safety critical. However, isn’t the vast majority as every role within aviation safety critical?
A role there was a specific lack of guidance for, was Cabin Crew. Cabin crew are safety critical due to their handling of safety equipment, medical equipment, and primary care of passengers. It is our belief that support for this community was crucial.
Since May 2020, Resilient Pilot has been providing: mentoring, webinars, and many other services to the Pilot Community. Since its inception, Resilient Pilot has mentored hundreds of Pilots as they navigate one of the hardest situations they will have to face in their careers.
With this in mind Tom went to the co-founders of Resilient Pilot and suggested that we look at expanding this offering to cabin crew. From that point, Tom has been working with the fantastic team at Resilient Pilot to create and launch the ‘Resilient Crew’ initiative.
I was approached by Resilient Pilot in February to come ‘onboard’ and be part of the ‘Resilient Crew’ team, and one of the Cabin Crew mentors. Since then, we are extremely excited to have welcomed a number of Cabin Crew mentors and also have a significant number of our pilot mentors to offer their expertise to help the Crew community through the remainder of this pandemic and beyond. It was highlighted early on that allowing Pilots to be involved with Cabin Crew mentoring and vice versa (provided the mentor feel comfortable to do so) was important. Aircrew communication is a vital part of the onboard CRM experience, and ultimately, we aim to foster that ‘aviation family’ on the ground in order to feel some normality.
Let’s face it, how many two am flight deck heart-to-hearts have been experienced by both Pilots and Cabin Crew?
Our ‘Resilient Crew’ initiative rests of the same foundations as Resilient Pilot, offering mentoring opportunities along with regular webinars and online social events. For ‘Resilient Crew’, our #TuesdayTuneIn will be the regular event. This week we launched ‘Resilient Crew’ with our first #TuesdayTuneIn. If you missed it, it’s now available to watch on demand here!
Furthermore, we also aim to hold regular ‘Crew Room Chats’. Think of these as a less scandalous version of ‘galley FM’. These will be open to any Aviation worker and will hopefully allow those missing a good old chat over a brew with a like-minded individual a space to connect over some common ground.
‘Resilient Crew’ is not limited to those who have been subject to the redundancy process. There truly will be something for everyone who is part of the Crew community. For those aspiring Crew who have put their dreams on hold due to lack of opportunities, we’re here for you. We will help build your resilience so you’re ready for the day opportunities become available. For those crew members still flying and navigating operating Ultra Long Haul duties, hotel room quarantine, and ‘survivors’ guilt’, we will help you navigate the ever-evolving landscape of operational duties. For those crew members who have lost their job, and don’t want to have their wings clipped permanently, we’re here for you. And for those who are ready hang up their wings permanently and find that alternative life path, we will help you use your incredible range of transferable skills to open doors onto your next pathway.
We can’t take back the pandemic, and we can’t take back whatever you’ve been through in the past 12 months. However, we recognise that whilst we are all in the same storm, we are in different boats, and we will do all we can to help you steer yours. We wish we weren’t needed, but until the day we are back cloud-surfing, making life-changing business deals happens, re-connecting loved ones, and providing once-in-a-lifetime holidays, we are here for you.
Jordan is one of our fantastic Resilient Crew mentors. With a passion in Wellbeing, Competencies and Transferable Skills she can provide great support and advice to Past, Present and Future crew navigating these difficult times. To get in touch, and learn more about Jordan’s experience visit our ‘Supported’ page.