United Airlines donating airline travel to health care workers, cargo space to move supplies

Twenty-five nurses from Centura Health in Colorado will fly into Newark Liberty International Airport on Tuesday to work in three New Jersey hospitals — St. Joseph’s University Medical Center in Paterson, Saint Peter’s University Hospital in New Brunswick and Trinitas Regional Medical Center in Elizabeth.

They will come because of Peter Banko, the Centura CEO, who happens to be a Jersey guy who used to work with Kevin Slavin, the head of the New Jersey Hospital Association as well as St. Joseph’s Health. And they will come — at no charge — on a flight by United Airlines.

At a time when airlines are struggling with catastrophic losses in revenues and customers, United has continued to offer assistance in any way it can, whether in direct donations or with the transportation of people or items, the airline said.

On Monday, Gov. Phil Murphy announced both United and Delta Air Lines have reached an agreement with the state to give free round-trip flights to any health care workers coming to volunteer in New Jersey.

File photo
Jill Kaplan of United Airlines.

Jill Kaplan, United’s president of the New Jersey/New York region, said the gesture is one the company is happy to make.

“As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to devastate our local communities, we are fully committed to supporting the state of New Jersey, home to our Newark hub, on behalf of our customers and employees, and do our part in providing air travel at no cost to medical volunteers,” she said.

“Frontline health care workers are our heroes and we are overwhelmingly grateful to them for their unwavering commitment and selfless dedication supporting those communities in need.”

The flight from Colorado will be the second such flight of health care workers the airline has made to Newark. Earlier in the month, 20 doctors and nurses were flown to the region from San Francisco.

That assistance goes toward United’s cargo operations as well, the company said.

The company said it is currently flying more than 150 cargo-only segments each week between six U.S. hubs and cities in Asia, Australia, Europe, the Caribbean and the Middle East. Since March 19, United said it has transported more than 31 million pounds of cargo — including 1.3 million pounds of medical equipment.

Last Thursday, in partnership with Airlink, United Airlines flew a shipment of 50,000 N95 masks from San Francisco to Newark for first responders in the area.

Earlier in the month, the airline helped fly the donation of Alibaba co-founder Joe Tsai of 1,000 ventilators, 70,000 goggles and 300,000 masks from China to San Francisco and then onto Newark — and did it in a 787 Dreamliner that is usually reserved for passenger flights.

At the end of March, United stepped in when a flight on another airline was canceled and helped Roche Diagnostics by flying a component needed for testing at the Mayo Clinic from Newark to Jacksonville, Florida.

Murphy thanked both United and Delta for stepping up.

“We are in urgent need of volunteers, and programs like this will allow us to draw help not just from the great people of New Jersey, but from the rest of the country as well,” he said.

Kaplan said the commitment to health care workers is one the company is eager to make.

“We are profoundly grateful for the extraordinarily talented and selfless individuals who are working around the clock and have an unwavering commitment to support our communities and medical providers at this time of exceptional need,” she said.

“It is our hope that providing air travel at no cost will allow additional dedicated volunteers and first responders the ability to reach the tri-state area that has been hit hardest by COVID-19.”

Any interested volunteers with medical training should contact the New Jersey Department of Health at covid19.nj.gov/forms/volunteer to coordinate the flight. The flights are open only to approved volunteers.

United is one of the largest employers in New Jersey, with more than 14,000 employees.

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