NZ flight attendant’s journey from redundancy to leading vaccine centre

Coral Davies
Albany Vaccination Centre supervisor Coral Davies ... "it's like being on aircraft without the aeroplane." Image: RNZ

By Nita Blake-Persen, RNZ News Checkpoint reporter

A former Air New Zealand flight attendant who is now at the frontlines of Auckland’s covid vaccination rollout says it is not a career change she ever anticipated — but one she couldn’t be more proud of.

Coral Davies was made redundant last year after working with Air New Zealand for nearly 33 years.

While a covid-related redundancy isn’t how she would have chosen to leave the industry, looking back she said it gave her time to reflect and see what she wanted to do next.

After working at an electoral booth in October, then supervising NCEA exams, she decided retirement wasn’t for her and she wanted to do something in the community that she truly believed in.

That led to her applying to the District Health Board to work at the vaccination sites – and she is now the supervisor at the Albany centre.

Albany Vaccination Centre
People queue for vaccine appointments booked at the Albany Vaccination Centre. Image: Rhonwyn Newson/RNZ

She loves it there — welcoming people, answering questions, making sure they have everything they need and that the clinic runs smoothly.

Davies said many of the skills she had developed at Air New Zealand transferred over — particularly around the customer journey and making sure it was a good experience for people.

She is not the only former Air New Zealand staffer there — former flight crew and baggage handlers have also found new jobs using their carefully honed customer care skills.

“I did say to somebody one day – gosh it’s a great job, it’s like being on aircraft without the aeroplane.

“And it’s great to see people walk out going ‘wow that was amazing’ – when actually they’ve come to have a needle put in their arm quite frankly!”

Davies’ care and enthusiasm has gone somewhat viral this week — her daughter Emily visited the clinic to get her own vaccination and tweeted about it, writing:

“Mum was made redundant after 33 years with AirNZ last year and yesterday I got to see her thriving in her new role as a supervisor at a vaccination centre. She treats every person coming in for a vaccine like they’re stepping in to business class. It’s fabulous!”

The tweet has become a bright spot in an online world which can look pretty bleak right now — at last count it had 19,000 ‘likes’.

Davies said the feedback had been overwhelming but also exciting.

“We should be treating people like they’re stepping into business class quite frankly – every person that steps into a vaccination site for their vaccine is actually doing something to keep all of us safe, so from my mind they deserve us to treat them like they are royalty coming into the site.”

Davies stressed she was just one part of a big team making the vaccination rollout happen – and had this advice for anyone facing a similar fork in their career road.

“It may not be where you thought you were going to be in the first place, but it could be just as great and just as much fun.”

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

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