TPG honors 3 airline-industry professionals with ‘Making a Difference Award’

Nov 20, 2020

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Airlines Week banner for the 2020 TPG Awards

It should come as a surprise to no one that 2020 was a devastating year for the aviation industry. As the coronavirus pandemic completely upended the industry, airlines began to look like a shell of their former selves.

Some airports around the world have taken on the new purpose of parking lots, with dozens of aircraft parked side-by-side. Display screens in airports often remained blank. Some airlines were forced to retire fleets of aircraft early in order to cut costs.

And, unfortunately, thousands of airline employees were left furloughed, grounded or made redundant — with virtually no airline around the world exempt from having to make those difficult decisions.

At the same time, healthcare workers around the globe were still battling the pandemic, oftentimes without the essentials to keep them going.

Which is where worlds collided. Some of those furloughed airline employees stepped up to provide service to the very healthcare workers battling the pandemic day in and day out.

Related: How the airline industry is coming together to support healthcare workers and how you can help too

Leading that effort was British Airways Captain David Fielding, EasyJet Captain Emma Henderson and Norwegian Air Director of Communications Anders Lindström via a one-of-its-kind venture called Project Wingman.

And today, we’re thrilled to honor these individuals with the “Making a Difference Award” for their efforts.

Emma Henderson, David Fielding and Anders Lindström. (Photos courtesy of Project Wingman)

Fielding and Henderson launched Project Wingman first in the U.K., after both having been furloughed during England’s first lockdown period. The duo called on other out-of-work airline employees to volunteer their time in newly-created “First Class Lounges” in hospitals around the country.

Much like savvy travelers are used to experiencing themselves, the crew sought to bring that restful and relaxing experience of a first-class lounge to health care workers. The airline employees brought coffee and tea, biscuits to snack on and even flowers to brighten up their day. Most importantly, however, they brought a set of open ears to listen to what the medical professionals were going through — before, during or after their grueling shifts.

“Crew are all trained in human factors and how to communicated with colleagues who are in stressful situations,” Project Wingman explains of its mission. “We fellow uniformed professionals understand what it is like to operate in a highly disciplined, regulated and pressured environment.”

The project started at the Whittington Hospital in Highgate, North London, for NHS workers caring for patients in COVID-19 wards, before eventually expanding to more than 30 hospitals with more than 4,000 volunteers. The duo’s efforts even spurred a congratulatory memo from Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Lindström joined the Project Wingman effort by extending its reach to the United States in May 2020. Lindström launched the first two locations in the epicenter of the virus at the time: New York City.

Along with his recruited crew of volunteers, Lindström opened up Project Wingman’s famed First Class Lounge at Flushing Hospital Medical Center in Queens, New York. The lounge was originally staffed with crew volunteers from American Airlines, Norwegian Air, Republic and United Airlines. That since expanded to include volunteers from virtually every major U.S. airline.

With its global reach, Project Wingman was able to provide essential health care workers with the comforts airline crew are used to providing passengers.

Instead of on metal tubes, the crew were able to bring their world-class service to the First Class Lounges that began popping up in medical facilities in the U.K. and the U.S.

Without a doubt, 2020 has been a trying year for everyone. As we grew accustomed to working from home, meeting friends from a distance and canceling our much-needed trips, some took to giving back.

Project Wingman helped to improve the days of the very health care workers working day in and day out to save lives in the first peak of the pandemic. By helping offer an outlet for grounded airline crew, Fielding, Henderson and Lindström helped to make a trying time for themselves and their colleagues a more generous one.

The Points Guy is thrilled to honor David Fielding, Emma Henderson and Anders Lindström with this year’s “Making a Difference Award”.

Featured photo courtesy of Project Wingman.

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