Project Wingman USA opened its two inaugural “First Class Lounges” this week, offering respite for frontline healthcare professionals. Mirrored on Project Wingman UK that launched in London last month by furloughed airline crew wanting to offer peer support to medical staff during the COVID-19 pandemic, it has quickly grown to more than 4,000 volunteers servicing lounges at 30 UK hospitals. The first two US locations are Flushing Hospital Medical Center and Jamaica Hospital Medical Center in Queens, New York City.
It is especially fitting to launch Project Wingman USA at two hospitals located close to two of the busiest airports in the country and so close to where many airline employees live. – Anders Lindström, Project Wingman USA Chairman & U.S. Director of Communications, Norwegian Air
The lounges will be staffed with volunteer flight attendants from a number of airlines, including American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Endeavor Air, JetBlue, Norwegian Air, Spirit Airlines and United Airlines. Partner FLAG (Front Line Appreciation Group) of NYC, which supports local restaurants and businesses during COVID-19 by providing food for frontline medical workers through donations, has helped bring onboard a number of small company donors, including Blank Slate Tea, Brittle & Beyond, GoGo Squeeze, MOJO Desserts and Whisps. Additionally, United Airlines has donated 2,000 pillows to be used in the lounges.
Project Wingman has already raised almost 20% of its goal, including generous donations from the Association of Flight Attendants and many others, but we do need more to take care of the healthcare professionals on the frontline. They have worked tirelessly for several months, with many more to go, and deserve this now more than ever.
The two launch hospitals have fittingly a long history of supporting New York City’s two main airports: Flushing Hospital is one of the closest receiving hospitals to LaGuardia Airport and Jamaica Hospital is the closest receiving hospital to JFK International Airport. Jamaica’s Level 1 Trauma Center provides support to the airport during disaster and emergency situations.
Both hospitals are at the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic that impacted the City of New York to a far greater extent than any other part of the United States.
The Project Wingman lounges are a safe space where healthcare professionals can come for peace and relaxation before, during and after their shifts to enjoy an ambient and comfortable setting with service provided by the project’s volunteers, who are also there to offer empathy and peer support. The lounge amenities include beverages, snacks and gifts.
The lounges are located in a secluded, non-patient facing environment and the hospitals provide the volunteers with personal protective equipment such as face masks and gloves.
“Jamaica and Flushing Hospital employees are extremely grateful to Project Wingman USA for creating these first-class relaxation lounges on both campuses,” said Bruce J. Flanz, president and CEO of the MediSys Health Network, which operates the two facilities. “These lounges give our hardworking frontline staff a place to take a much-needed break and relax, even if it is for just a moment. Even more impressive than the lounges are the caring and compassionate men and women from the airline industry who selflessly volunteered to be here to support our team. We thank them for their efforts.”
Airline crewmembers who wish to volunteer can sign up at projectwingmanusa.com. Donations to fund snacks, non-alcoholic beverages and miscellaneous necessities for the lounges can be made at the group’s GoFundMe site.
Members of the Project Wingman USA’s Advisory Board include Jonathan Spira, group vice chairman, who is the editorial director of Frequent Business Traveler magazine; Cari Gelber, chief operating officer, who is the Founder of FLAG-NYC; and Michelle Gysberts, chief communications officer, who is the Director of Imagination-Marketing.