A group of Scandinavian Airlines flight attendants have still been reporting for duty, though this time in a different shade of blue.

In Sweden, suspended SAS cabin crew are swapping uniforms for surgical scrubs as they retrain to aid medical staff responding to the coronavirus pandemic.

SAS, the shared flag carrier of Denmark, Norway and Sweden, has stood down 10,000 employees or 90 per cent of its workforce since mid-March following international travel restrictions and lack of demand in response to Covid-19. From March 16 the airline made these drastic changes due to the demand for air travel being "essentially non-existent".

While airlines have been grounded, hospitals and medical staff are under huge pressure for staff. It is an imbalance one Scandinavian training centre sees an obvious solution to.


At the Swedish medical school Sophia Hemmet University in Stockholm, 30 former cabin crew are retraining to combat the medical emergency.

Former SAS attendant, Mathilda Malm, learns to use a UV station to combat the coronavirus outbreak in Stockholm. Photo / David Keyton, AP
Former SAS attendant, Mathilda Malm, learns to use a UV station to combat the coronavirus outbreak in Stockholm. Photo / David Keyton, AP

"There are incredibly competent people, for example at SAS, who will be able to relieve medical workers," says Johanna Adami, the Principle of Sophia Hemmet Medical College.

It is a tiny number of former airline staff, compared to those currently suspended, but it hoped this "pilot scheme" might help other areas retrain to aid the Swedish medical responders.

Particularly prized among flight crew are their unflappable ability to meet "unexpected and challenging situations calmly and methodically and with very high attention to service," said the Swedish medical school.

The former hosties are being trained in sanitation and medical administration using scholarships from the Marianne and Marcus Wallenberg Foundation and the Novare HR group.

A different shade of blue – but the same heart, ambition and dedication. 💙 Today, this incredible group from our cabin...

Posted by SAS - Scandinavian Airlines on Tuesday, 31 March 2020

It's hoped that from this re-training programme the scheme can be broadened to incorporate employees from other industries to help relieve pressure on medical services.

Across the world airlines have been standing-down and laying-off drastic portions of their workforces.

In the UK former crew of budget carriers easyJet and Virgin Atlantic have been asked to consider volunteering with Health Service work.


It is something Virgin Australia says it has also proposed to governments in Australia and New Zealand, saying there were a range of skill sets among staff that would be of great value as part of the medical response.

The airline confirmed last week that it will be closing its New Zealand-based crew operations and that it will not seek to reopen them once travel restrictions lift, threatening over 500 crew and pilots with redundancies.

Air New Zealand announced it would be forced to reduce its workforce by 30 per cent, in spite of government assistance.

A spokesperson for Air New Zealand said the airline is "exploring redeployment opportunities with external organisations where workload has increased due to the impact of Covid-19."

Many employers in the medical services and the food-supply chain are looking for extra manpower and resouces at this time.

Last week, supermarket chains were able to make instant offers of work to 250 members of high-street travel agents Flight Cente New Zealand, who were made redundant due to he pandemic.

Covid19.govt.nz: The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website