Manchester Airport staff rally round local communities in major Covid-19 outreach effort

  • Employees at the UK’s third largest airport are leading an unprecedented voluntary campaign to support local communities affected by the Covid-19 crisis
  • Staff-led initiatives range from a resource pack for homeschooling families to phone calls for the elderly and isolated
  • Thousands of aircraft meals delivered to food banks and schools

Friendly phone calls, doorstep deliveries and mobile meals are among the services Manchester Airport workers are providing to communities during the Coronavirus crisis.

Colleagues from across the airport’s operations have been putting the skills from their regular roles to good use, performing vital volunteer services in communities.

That includes sending “keep in touch” postcards to hundreds of senior citizens living in surrounding communities, such as Wythenshawe and Heald Green, with the offer of a phone conversation with an airport colleague if they wanted one.

Volunteers subsequently made more than 100 calls, with locals either catching-up generally on things they want to chat about, finding out about what is going on at the airport or, in some cases, being helped with problems they were unsure who to ask about.

Drivers have also been working with Wythenshawe Good Neighbours to deliver activity packs to people’s doorsteps, as well as carrying out pharmacy deliveries.

Meanwhile, due to a series of annual tea parties with elderly people having to be cancelled, staff have turned up to surprise those who were due to attend with special treats including tea bags, cakes and items to celebrate VE Day with.

And the airport’s education team – which year-round delivers sessions for more than 15,000 young people across the region – has created a special education pack that has been downloaded by the children of airport staff and members of the community to help with home-schooling during the lockdown.

Community relations officer Tina Large, who has coordinated the activity, said: “It has been heart-warming to see how many people came forward as soon as we put the call out for volunteers.

“Those who are volunteering tell us they see it as a privilege to be able to represent the business and do something for the community.

“While community outreach is something we do all year round, it is having a hugely positive impact right now because of the current situation.”

Firefighter Mark Bowcock, who has been helping deliver parcels with Wythenshawe Good Neighbours, said: “To see the reaction from those we have been visiting and the smiles on their faces has been emotional at times, but it is all part of being a good neighbour and part of representing Manchester Airport.”

The airport’s Fire Service is also supporting Manchester’s Nightingale Hospital, with stand-by support staff and by loaning life-saving equipment it currently does not need. More than 100 wheelchairs, usually used for passengers with reduced mobility, have also been loaned to the site, at Manchester Central.

Meanwhile, the airport has partnered with airline catering company Alpha LSG to supply nearly 3,000 frozen aircraft meals to food banks, schools and other organisations in communities next to the airport.

The food has been stored in an aircraft hangar, with the airport’s community relations and motor transport teams driving it to organisations such as the Manchester Enterprise Academy and the Tree of Life, Wythenshawe.

Sandra Ronaldson, assistant manager of the Woodhouse Park Lifestyle Centre, run by Wythenshawe Community Housing Group, said: “The hundreds of in-flight meals that have been delivered will be going to our vulnerable tenants, who are self-isolating and are unable to go out. It has been a wonderful show of spirit at this terrible time.”

The UK’s third largest airport remains open, handling a small number of essential flights each day from a single terminal.

And while its operations are significantly reduced, the Northern gateway is ensuring its facilities, equipment and colleagues are supporting surrounding neighbourhoods through the lockdown.

Each week, the airport has been using its site to show its support for the key workers in the NHS and other industries. That included an applause on one of its runways, followed by the lighting up of its Air Traffic Control Tower.

Andrew Cowan, CEO of Manchester Airport, said: “Manchester Airport has always been committed to being a good neighbour and already has a number programmes to support communities and provide education and employment opportunities.

“The Coronavirus pandemic is without doubt the biggest challenge our business has ever faced, but we know it is also presenting significant challenges for those who live and work near to the airport.

“That is why it has been pleasing to see so many of our colleagues wanting to do whatever they can to provide vital volunteer services when people need it most.

“The airport is here to serve the region and it is pleasing that we have been able make our facilities and equipment available to support the Covid-19 response where we can.”

Mike Kane, MP for Wythenshawe and Sale East and Shadow Aviation Minister, added: “It is great to see key assets like Manchester Airport, which supports its local communities year round, including in my own constituency where many employees live, continuing to do so in challenging time. It is testament to how vital these businesses are to the region.”