Virgin Atlantic pilot swaps flights for food delivery during COVID-19

James Farwell in cockpit with Virgin Atlantic crew
Image from James Farwell
Natalie Clarkson
by Natalie Clarkson
20 April 2020

With most of Virgin Atlantic’s planes grounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, many of their people have taken on new roles to help fight the virus. We caught up with pilot James Farwell to find out more.

James joined Virgin Atlantic in December 2019, fulfilling a childhood dream to fly for the airline. With flights grounded due to COVID-19, he’s taking on a role as a home delivery driver for Tesco.

“I saw the opportunity and thought it would be a great idea,” he says. “It gets me out of the house and keeps me active, which is good for my mental wellbeing. But also, it helps the community.”

During his delivery rounds, he’s encountered people with different experiences of the pandemic, including customers who are unable to get to the shops due to mobility issues, and one customer with leukaemia who was self-isolating.

“At first I didn't think it would help the community as much as it does,” James says. “But it’s hit home how important this job is. It allows Tesco to add extra capacity on delivery slots, and it enables vulnerable people to have more chances to get what they need – especially those who don't have family nearby.”

James says that he’s been welcomed into the Tesco family by his new colleagues. “Everyone’s been really positive and really happy. They’re just really grateful for people who have joined to help them out at the moment.”

Image from James Farwell
Image from James Farwell

And he wants to inspire others to do what they can to help. He says: “I know as pilots we're not as medically qualified as cabin crew, who are doing an incredible job volunteering at NHS Nightingale, but there's always another role you could take on.

“Instead of sitting at home doing nothing, you can be out there and help bring light in a dark situation.”

Virgin Atlantic has operated a number of flights to bring essential PPE into the UK from China. Many other Virgin Atlantic employees like James are taking on different roles during the COVID-19 pandemic, including working at supermarkets and volunteering in the NHS.