Project Wingman Is Bringing the First Class Lounge Experience to Hospital Workers in New York and London

“They've been working nonstop, they suddenly get to sit down... it's someone taking care of them for a few minutes."

healthcare workers at Flushing Hospital lounge
Healthcare workers enjoy refreshments at a lounge in Flushing Hospital. Photo: Project Wingman

In an initiative to bring some much-needed relief to healthcare workers, grounded flight attendants in New York and London are using their skills to provide a first-class experience to those fighting COVID-19 when they need it most.

Project Wingman, a program utilizing volunteer airline workers and flight attendants who were grounded or had their schedules significantly cut, has been setting up lounge spaces in different hospitals to provide healthcare workers with a relaxing experience while on the job.

“The guests that come into the lounge, they're so appreciative,” Anders Lindström, the U.S. lead for the project (and a spokesman for Norwegian Air), told Travel + Leisure. “They've been working nonstop, they suddenly get to sit down... it's someone taking care of them for a few minutes. It's giving them that break and a bit of motivation.”

Volunteer Billie Jean Corsini at Flushing Hospital lounge
Volunteer Billie Jean Corsini welcomes healthcare workers to a lounge in Flushing Hospital. Project Wingman

The project started in April in London and grew to several hospitals in the area. Then Lindström got involved and brought it to the U.S. where on May 6 he launched in two New York City's Flushing Hospital Medical Center and Jamaica Hospital Medical Center — two of the closest hospitals to the city’s airports, LaGuardia Airport and John F. Kennedy International Airport.

The lounges are staffed by flight attendants from different airlines, including JetBlue, American Airlines, and Norwegian Air — and many are in uniform. While Lindström said hundreds of hospital workers are coming through each day, social distancing is observed and people are told to “please mind your wingtips.”

Volunteer John Cook with healthcare workers at Jamaica hospital lounge
Volunteer John Cook of JetBlue Airways stands with healthcare workers at a lounge in Jamaica Hospital. Project Wingman

The entire effort is run through volunteers and donations with companies donating everything from MOJO Dessert’s small-batch chocolate mousse for Mother’s Day to an artisanal tea service complete with Blank Slate Tea and pastries. There is also a GoFundMe page for anyone to donate to.

“Airline crew are highly trained in dealing with stressful situations and dealing with people,” he told us. “It's more of a first-class experience, it's playing on that concept. We're working with the hospitals identifying an area that isn't patient-facing and then just make them really nice to not feel like they're in a hospital.”

While some destinations have started to reopen and look toward welcoming visitors again, the future of travel still remains up in the air. In the meantime, Lindström said the airline crew is willing and able to use their skills this way.

“Airline crew always want to help,” he said. “They always put their hand up to volunteer and want to take care of people.”

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