Meet the Virgin Atlantic crew stepping up to support the community: Darren Moore
Darren Moore is a Flight Service Manager at Virgin Atlantic who is temporarily working with Asda to deliver critical supplies to vulnerable people in isolation. He joined Virgin Atlantic over two decades ago as a fresh-faced geography graduate who wanted to explore the world. 23 years later, Darren is now a Flight Service Manager who has flown all across the globe and worked through crises such as 9/11 and now COVID-19. Here’s Darren’s story, in his own words.
Can you tell us a little bit about your Virgin Atlantic story?
Back in 1997 I has just graduated university with a degree in Geography and thought I’d sign up as a Junior Flight Attendant for a year to travel and see the world. Before I knew it, I had fallen in love with the job and the company and was progressing through the cabin crew ranks. I’m now a Flight Service Manager at Virgin Atlantic, and have been for the last 15 years. Every day I feel proud to work for Virgin.
What do you love about your job?
I love every aspect of Virgin Atlantic - particularly the people. At the moment, our pride for working and for protecting our people and our airline has never been so evident! We’ve always been a company that our people feel loyal to and a part of. The airline has been a big part of my success in life and I know many others feel the same. I love that we also have fiercely loyal customers who want to help us ride this storm - from our Flying Club Gold card customers to families on dream holidays.
I never take for granted that, as Virgin Atlantic crew, we are uniquely fortunate to go from flying nearly 450 customers on a packed B747 from London to Orlando one day, and on to Hong Kong or New York the next. I really love our destinations; cities and places like New York, Miami, LA and Shanghai have become our second homes! Even after 23 years, I never take for granted how amazing it is to have an office in the sky.
Can you tell us a little bit about the role you’ve picked up in the wake of COVID-19?
At the end of February, it became clear to me from flights I was operating that our loads were dwindling and the industry would be hit hard from the coronavirus pandemic. Back in 2001, I was in New York during September 11 and I got stuck there for a week during the World Trade Center attacks, so I remember how quick things changed and how it felt to be flying an empty aircraft. So when passenger movement from Europe to the US was suspended in mid-March, I knew it would have serious consequences for Virgin Atlantic.
I was 100 per cent supportive of taking off two months of unpaid leave to support the company and within a couple of days, Virgin Atlantic started sharing information from supermarkets calling for help. I responded to a delivery driver job from my local Asda store. The next day I spent the morning in induction training and was driving by the afternoon.
What has the experience been like?
My role supports the delivery of extra slots to members of the public who have been identified as high risk and having to self-isolate. Asda was approached by the government and asked to hugely increase its deliveries to support vulnerable customers who have been given a Priority Pass. I load up the van and deliver food and supplies to over 20 customers across Bristol and Gloucestershire each shift.
The job feels really worthwhile as I’m providing a service to people trapped in their homes. A lot of the customers are elderly members of the community and they are so grateful to see me arrive with their delivery. I always take the time to have a friendly chat, check how they are doing and have that engagement. Everything is done at a safe distance and with the necessary safety precautions - using gloves and sanitisation. On my last shift, 80 per cent of my customers were having their first delivery and some were quite emotional. At one point, an elderly lady was waving at me from her kitchen window and shouted, “you’re an angel”, as I left.
I’ve been blown away by the gratitude and friendliness of the general public. I worked over the whole Easter weekend and was offered Easter eggs, cakes, drinks and more - the gratitude from customers has made the experience even more rewarding.
Notably, last Thursday evening I arrived for a delivery just before 8pm and I could hear what sounded like drums as the neighbourhood came out to clap for the NHS. A few people even came around the van and clapped for me – saying I was a key worker. It was a little bit embarrassing but it does make you realise that you are providing an important service during these quite dark and strange times.
What inspired you to take on the role?
I decided to apply for a delivery driver role as there weren’t any initial NHS roles in my area, and it was the first industry to come forward looking for help. I’ve also worked full-time for nearly 24 years so I wanted to keep busy for my own mental health and wellbeing! Living out of a suitcase as cabin crew, we’re surrounded by people and we love to help. It’s a caring profession, so the prospect of not stepping up and doing something to help filled me with dread.
The best part of the delivery role has been seeing the relief and gratitude from the elderly and vulnerable people when you arrive. You realise that a five minute conversation may be their only conversation for that day. On a flight, you have up to 11 hours to chat and get to know our customers and to create memories, yet a simple five minute conversation to someone in need can be just as rewarding.
What is it about Virgin Atlantic that you love the most?
Virgin is a huge part of my life - from meeting my wife at the airline in the nineties, to my kids growing up and seeing the world with global travel. It’s a cliché but Virgin Atlantic is a family. We’ve survived September 11 and many other global events - so in our 36th year I feel just as proud to represent a part of Virgin with Asda’s call to ‘help support and feed the nation’!
Thanks to Darren and everyone at Virgin Atlantic who has stepped up to support the community.