Our Five Minutes with… this month is Caroline Reid, Customer Delivery Manager at British Airways’ Passenger Medical Clearance Unit.
How did you get into medical services at BA?
I joined BA in sales training then decided to go into corporate sales to learn more about the financial aspect of the business. I spent a few years there, then this job came up in Health Services and I thought it sounded interesting – I had no idea BA was involved in half of what it does from a medical services point of view.
Is it a mission in life or just a job?
Every day is different, that’s the thing. Sometimes you think I’m up to speed and somebody throws something at you. It usually happens on Friday afternoons at 3 o’clock. It’s been busy because the department has remained open throughout due to the medicals being carried out on-site.
How has life been for the last year?
I had to furlough most of my team, so I ran the department for a considerable time with a skeleton staff. There was also a lot of worry about the future of jobs, but we’ve weathered the storm.
How was case management different during the pandemic?
There weren’t so many straightforward cases e.g fractures because fewer people were travelling. We received more requests for terminal cases to fly, such as passengers wishing to receive palliative care at their place of birth. These tend to take more time to process and require more in-depth input from our Physicians. We require a lot more information from the treating doctor of the passenger before we can reach a decision as to whether they can fly. We’ll always try to meet the expectations of the family, because it’s very important to them, but sometimes the patient is just too poorly, and we have to say no which is difficult for us to say.
Have new aircraft with better cabin pressurisation made a difference to medical emergencies?
No, the guidelines are the same regardless of aircraft type. Cabin Crew are fully trained to handle any medical emergency should it occur on-board.
What lessons from the last two years have made you think differently?
The impact for us was a complete team restructure. Previously we had a team dedicated to passenger medical clearance but following a reorganisation, the team is now in dual roles. They also look after the occupational health side of BA as we have our own in-house team to provide medicals to pilots, new cabin crew, airside drivers, engineering etc. This provides the team with more variety in the new role, which also has its own challenges.
Are there any general travel tips you can share?
Yes, BA has two fantastic tools. Sherpa which is on our website where you type in where you’re travelling to and from and it will provide all your travel requirements such as Covid information and the paperwork required and the Verifly app which will store and check your Covid-19 health documents before you travel and speed up the check-in process.
Also, travel insurance! I cringe when I see cases of people going on holiday without it. I have so many horror stories of bringing people back with horrendous injuries because of flip flops on scooters and things. So, please, insurance, every time.
After no travel for two years, where’s your next destination?
It’s been torture. A trip to Tuscany for my sister’s birthday has been delayed three times. We’re hoping to go there at the beginning of April.
Is there a favourite dinner party story you can share?
My husband and I were booked standby on the last commercial Concorde flight from Heathrow. At check-in we found there had been a flurry of late purchases and there was only one seat left. We had to make a snap decision, so I said to my husband: ‘You go, and you can spend the rest of your life making it up to me’. He flew to New York, got through immigration and passport control then travelled back up the escalator and checked in for his return flight home. Somehow this story got through the grapevine in BA so when they were repositioning Concorde to New York, BA offered me a seat, so I did manage to fly ‘supersonic’ after all.