Travel and aviation workers whose careers were decimated by Covid-19 now have their feet planted firmly on the ground thanks to new employment.

AA Insurance has snapped up 40 people made redundant from travel and tourism for roles in sales and customer service.

Manoj Gopalakrishnan had just bought his first house when the impact of the global pandemic was first felt.

He was working in luxury travel arranging resort accommodation, private jets, and first-class experiences for dignitaries such as Barack Obama and wealthy visitors when the cancellations started coming in.

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"I was working for an amazing company and I loved my job but all of a sudden the bookings stopped," Gopalakrishnan said.

"With no people arriving in New Zealand there wasn't anything the business could do and they had to let us go."

Gopalakrishnan said the news was "heartbreaking" and the only positive was his wife, in finance, was still employed.

The experience was the same for Auckland woman Kim Jensen, a cabin supervisor for Virgin Australia.

Virgin Australia made about 600 New Zealand-based staff redundant due to Covid-19. Photo / Supplied
Virgin Australia made about 600 New Zealand-based staff redundant due to Covid-19. Photo / Supplied

Jensen felt devastated when she was made redundant just before New Zealand entered level 4 lockdown.

"Because I was flying I was already self-isolating when we were made redundant," Jensen said.

"There was no opportunity to say goodbye to colleagues or adjust to the job loss, we were in lockdown immediately and couldn't see anyone," she said.

Jensen had some short-term work with Bunnings filling online orders but as restrictions lifted and stores opened that work dried up.

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After that it was rejection letter followed by rejection letter and in some cases no response at all.

It was the same for Gopalakrishnan.

"I would get letters saying they were not employing anyone from the travel industry because we didn't have the right experience," Gopalakrishnan said.

"I just wanted to get in front of someone for an interview and show them what my transferable skills were - that I had a lot to offer."

Then AA Insurance started hiring.

Simon Hobbs at AAI said from the outset the company was looking for the right people and personalities - not experience or qualifications.

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Simon Hobbs said AAI wanted people with people skills rather than experience in insurance. Photo / Alex Burton
Simon Hobbs said AAI wanted people with people skills rather than experience in insurance. Photo / Alex Burton

"For us it was the perfect time to hire because there was this group of amazing people who know how to look after customers and that's what we want," Hobbs said.

"We can teach them about insurance and train them in the systems but having the right mind-set and a customer focus is what we value."

Hobbs started in a graduate role at the company 23 years ago and is now head of claims.

He said the turnover at AAI was remarkably low but because of growth and people moving with the company there was the opportunity to hire.

The company has hired 40 people in two 20 strong recruitment drives.

Both Jensen and Gopalakrishnan said the move to insurance would be for the long term.

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"The experience right from applying for the job, the interview process and now the training has been so incredibly positive," Jensen said.

"I really feel like the company sees my worth and wants to invest in me."

Gopalakrishnan said the process right from applying was professional and positive.

"It has been great to have someone recognised that people in this industry have great transferable skills and that we can be a real asset if just given a chance."