|Table of Contents |
Page 1 – Feeling Bullied A Harrowing Experience
Page 1 – Allegations of Inappropriate Touching
Page 2 – Behind the Galley Curtain
Page 2 – Dealing with the Grievance
Page 2 – Stupidity Ignorance or Both?
Page 3 – Workplace Mental Health
Page 4 – Ex Police Officer now Cabin Crew
Being Cabin Crew | The Ugly Truth Part 2
Feeling Bullied A Harrowing Experience
Having spent my entire working life as cabin crew I was made redundant in 2020 following the outbreak of Covid-19. I was on long term sick at the time struggling with my mental health. The minute redundancies were announced I knew my cards were marked.
During my thirty years with this airline I maintained a clean work record, demonstrated a strong work ethic and was passionate about providing an exceptional standard of service. I worked hard and carried out my duties to the highest standard.
In later years as a Flight Manager I worked closely with my crew to gain trust and respect, ensured safety and service procedures were followed and tried to create a happy working environment.
Mental health is a critical aspect of workplace well-being and it’s something I’ve always been passionate about.
One aspect of my role as a Flight Manager I particularly enjoyed was coaching and developing. During my twenty five years as an Onboard Manager I wrote and delivered hundreds of performance appraisals.
In 2003 a couple of years after being promoted to Flight Manager my partner became gravely ill. As his health deteriorated I found myself in a very difficult situation.
Flying full time made looking after him very difficult and part time really wasn’t an option. In those days this type of contract was only generally offered to those returning from maternity.
Having told my manager I was considering leaving as it seemed to be the only option, he managed to get me part-time.
Despite the turmoil of the next five years which had a huge impact on my mental health, I remained loyal and committed to the company and rarely missed a duty.
In performance appraisals written on me by colleagues throughout my time as Purser and subsequently Flight Manager, I was described as proactive, approachable, a great communicator and someone who thrived on delivering exceptional standards of service.
I took a keen interest in my performance and development and spoke with my manager regularly. We had a good relationship, were open and honest with each other and I was repeatedly told I was a high performing member of his team.
I wear my heart on my sleeve and am by nature thoughtful, kind and considerate. As a Flight Manager I understood the importance of rewarding outstanding performance but also felt it was important to highlight areas where there was room for improvement. I believe that’s part of being an effective manager.
For Christmas 2018 I was rostered a flight to Seattle. It had a long layover and I didn’t want to be away from home for so long. My dad had recently become very frail and was in the last stages of his life.
Using the in-house swap system I managed to swap the duty with for a shorter trip to Atlanta. It was a decision that would change my life.
What happened in the months that followed is difficult to comprehend and had a catastrophic effect on my mental health. That was well over three years ago and I’m still struggling to come to terms with what took place.
I had considered leaving the airline many times over the years but loved flying, believed I did my job well and was never quite ready or brave enough to call it a day.
At the time this episode of my life began I had been back at work for less than a year. I had been off for eighteen months on long term sick with issues relating to my mental health.
What I endured at the hands of several Managers, the Head of Department (Head of Cabin Crew) and even the company CEO defies belief.
They were all fully aware of my situation and I had made it very clear that I was crumbling under the pressure of having to deal with a fictitious grievance.
The complaint against me had been raised by an ex serving police officer who had joined the company as cabin crew eleven months earlier. At the time we flew together he was still in his probation period.
A few years earlier in 2014 I’d had an encounter with the Head of Department. It ended with me reporting her for a breach of confidentiality.
Although she was not initially involved in the disciplinary proceedings between the ex police officer and myself, I believe she was the driving force behind the investigation. As my story unfolds I will present indisputable evidence to support this.
I think she saw the grievance as an opportunity for revenge. As such the investigation became a vindictive witch hunt and nothing I could have done would have changed the outcome.
I believe the Head of Department wanted to see me punished and was prepared to do whatever necessary to achieve that.
Allegations of Inappropriate Touching
During a flight to Cape Town some years ago I was asked by one of the cabin crew to speak with a customer sitting in the front row of the Business Class cabin.
Since take-off she had been asking to be upgraded because her husband was unable to get comfortable. I’d seen him board the aircraft and noticed he had a spinal issue which prevented him from being able to stand up straight.
After introducing myself she told me she wanted to be upgraded to First so her husband could lay down. Having explained I didn’t have the authority to upgrade them she said they had been upgraded many times before by the Flight Manager. She told me as a top flying club member they were entitled to be upgraded.
I explained that wasn’t company policy and although we do everything possible to make returning customers feel welcome, the Flight Manager is not allowed to upgrade.
She told me they had flown out to Cape Town in First but were disappointed with the seat so changed their return flight to Premium. It was the first time they had travelled in this cabin and found the seat extremely uncomfortable.
Despite trying to help as much as I could her only interest was being upgraded. At this point in time the company strictly prohibited us from upgrading anyone to First.
A couple of years earlier a friend and colleague of mine had been given a disciplinary for upgrading someone during the flight.
As her voice became louder she suddenly blurted out “you have no idea what it’s like to live with someone who’s disabled”.
I empathised and said I really did understand how difficult it was and explained I’d been a carer for many years for my partner. She looked me in the eye and said “he probably had AIDS”.
Her comment hit me like a ton of bricks. I couldn’t believe what I had just heard. I stood up, walked away and didn’t have anything to do with her for the remainder of the flight.
Her comment resonated with me because my ex partner did have AIDS. Those years were some of the most difficult and traumatic of my life.
Flying is a job unlike any other. During my thirty years with the airline I met many amazing people including my current partner.
I always felt proud to work for this organisation and did everything to make every customer’s journey special. I get an immense amount of satisfaction from making people happy and am passionate about delivering great customer service.
I can hardly remember a day when I didn’t feel excited about going to work.
I had always planned on hanging up my wings at 55 but in 2016 a year before my 50th birthday was on long term sick. I never believed I’d be well enough to return to work.
Against all odds in March 2018 after almost eighteen months of being away I finally returned. Although I was no longer the person I once was, being back doing the job I loved was more than I could have wished for.
Settling down into my role as a Flight Manager was easier than I had expected. I loved being back, worked hard and always tried to set an example for others to follow.
I am by nature a bit of a joker and love to make people laugh. Although I expected my crew to work hard I always tried to create a fun and relaxed working environment.
On 24th December 2018 I operated the flight to Atlanta that I had swapped onto. In the eighteen months that followed, taking my life was at the forefront of my mind on many occasions.
On that fateful day I checked in with five of the most vile and despicable people you could ever wish to meet. One of them was Bart, an ex serving police officer of eight years.
He had been with the company for just eleven months and was coming to the end of his probation.
My alleged conduct during the flight and whilst in Atlanta led to him raising a grievance against me for bullying, harassment, overbearing supervision and inappropriate touching.
Bart was on the flight with Anna his now ex fiancée who was also crew. She had been in the company for around the same amount of time as him. I didn’t become aware of their relationship until well after we landed home.
Anna was also ex police but I don’t in what capacity. She was good friends with two other crew members on the flight.
Considering the seriousness of his allegations Bart said nothing to anyone about my alleged behaviour during the outbound or inbound flight or during our overnight stay in Atlanta.
Even after landing back in the UK he didn’t speak to his manager to raise concerns about anything that had allegedly taken place.
Upon arriving at the Cabin Crew Check-In area on 24th December I sat in the lounge with a coffee and began preparing for the flight. That included allocating each crew member an inflight working position.
I had only flown with one of the eleven crew previously. I allocated Bart a working position in First. Working in this cabin meant he would be working alongside me and four other team members.
From the second I met Bart he was aloof and unfriendly which was extremely unusual. I initially put it down to shyness.
When I asked him during our pre-flight safety briefing whether he’d worked in First before he confirmed he had many times.
What I witnessed on both the outbound and return flight showed otherwise. During both sectors I addressed a number of issues with him specifically regarding the way he was delivering the service. That was part of my role as a Flight Manager.
With him still being in probation I decided to write a performance appraisal. In line with company policy that’s exactly what I should have done.
Upon receipt of the appraisal he responded with accusations of bullying, harassment and overbearing supervision. He also accused me of inappropriate touching not only towards him but also towards the rest of the crew.
In his complaint he made twenty separate complaints about my performance, ability and conduct.
Despite proving unequivocally that Bart, his fiancée Anna and four others with whom they colluded were lying, the allegations against me were upheld. Almost nothing I said throughout the grievance investigation was believed.
Bart is a devious, malicious narcissist who was not prepared to accept any constructive feedback on his performance. His eight years in the police enabled him to cleverly manipulate everything that happened between us.
For his complaint to be upheld he knew the importance of having witnesses to support his version of events. He therefore colluded with several members of the crew.
Anna his now ex fiancée was good friends with two crew members one of whom was on the flight with her best friend. Mia had been in the company for just over a year, her best friend Peter had been flying for six months.
As someone with an impressive memory which Anna confirmed in her witness statement, Bart manipulated facts from situations that took place in order to distort the truth. This made it incredibly difficult for me to defend myself from the allegations made against me.
The following paragraph is from Anna’s witness statement. She was working out of the galley at the opposite end of a very large aircraft. She only came to the front where Bart and I were working once and that was on the inbound sector to London. Upon arriving at the front galley at my request she stayed for just a few minutes.
In addition to Bart, three other employees one being Anna also accused me of inappropriate touching. Her witness statement and one written by crew member Ven are so vile, poisonous and full of hatred that even now I find them incredibly difficult to read.
All five witness statements submitted by those who supported Bart’s complaint were full of lies and inconsistencies. It wasn’t difficult to see collusion had taken place.
The remaining three witness statements written by the crew members who worked alongside Bart and myself in First Class plus those written by the Captain and First Officer were honest, relatively accurate and told a completely different story.
Despite providing a significant amount of evidence to prove Bart, Anna and their accomplices were lying, the managers dealing with the case and the Head of Department who later dealt with my appeal, refused to believe a word that I said.
Four out of the six employees involved in this matter had been with the airline for less than twelve months. The fifth was on his first operating fight back after having been on a ground placement for a year.
The remaining crew member who was Ven had been with the airline for four years. He had been called on the morning of the flight from standby because we needed an additional crew member.
The following paragraph comes from Ven’s witness statement. He’s talking about Bart. Anna was Bart’s fiancée not his wife. Ven had never flown with him or anyone else on the crew previously.
Along with Bart and myself there were four others working in First. Lottie was the longest serving employee after me. She had been with the airline for eight years.
Katrina and Claire had only been with the company for just over a year but both had flown previously. Bruce was the second longest serving crew member.
Katrina and Claire were best friends who had been at another airline for thirty years. They had been onboard managers for twenty of those years before being made redundant.
Almost nothing that was said by Lottie, Katrina and Claire in their witness statements was believed by the company. Bruce failed to return his statement.
Bart’s complaint was submitted three weeks after the flight. It was almost four months before the company requested witness statements from other members of the crew.
Each crew member was asked to respond to more than thirty questions about my performance, ability and conduct. The questions were based on allegations made by Bart.
One question was “please share any observations you have about Laurence and his physical touching towards either yourself or any of the cabin crew throughout the flight.”
This is a leading question because it suggests a presumption of inappropriate physical touching. It also prompts the respondent to provide information that supports that presumption.
A more appropriate question would have been “Did Laurence touch you or anyone else during during the flight? If so, please describe the nature of the touching”
Out of eleven questionnaires which included the two pilots, nine were returned.
As part of my defence I asked a doctor of clinical psychology to write to the grievance hearing manager regarding the accusations of inappropriate touching. I had been seeing him for some time because of matters relating to my mental health.
During our sessions we spoke about something I have struggled with for my entire adult life. I believe it stems from a physically abusive relationship I was in when I was eighteen. Without going into more detail than necessary, I find physical contact that may be perceived as being affectionate very difficult.
It’s something I have never spoken openly about yet was now sharing this intensely private information with my employer to clear my name.
This next paragraph is from Bart’s complaint. The second paragraph is from the outcome of my appeal that was heard by the Head of Department.
The doctor I was seeing is a Consultant Clinical and Counselling Psychologist and an Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society. He is a registered Applied Practitioner Psychologist with the Health and Care Professions Council. He’s been in practice for more than thirty years and has the following letters after his name; BA (Hons), MSc Med Psych, DClinPsych, CPsychol, AFBPsS.
The Head of Department joined the airline sixteen years after me. She moved into her current role in 2016. My flight was in December 2018. According to her LinkedIn profile she has nine ‘O’ levels including English and Maths and an ‘A’ level in English literature. Despite not having any qualification in psychology she seems to know better than a clinical psychologist.
I had proven unequivocally in my evidence using factual evidence that the three crew members who accused me of inappropriate touching had lied throughout their entire statement. It made no difference.
Nobody had been touched inappropriately by me at any time. The only physical contact I’d had with a crew member was the moment I touched Ven’s ankle for a split second whilst playing a joke on him.
In their witness statements the three cabin crew who worked alongside Bart and I in First stated they were unaware of any inappropriate touching at any time. In fact out of eleven witness statements only one crew member claimed she had seen me touch another inappropriately. That person was Bart’s fiancée Anna who was working at the opposite end of the aircraft to me.
The remaining witness statements confirmed nobody saw me touch anyone inappropriately or was even aware of any such behaviour.
The following paragraph comes from Anna’s witness statement. For point of reference I’m five foot seven. Bart is over six foot.
I believe the Head of Department was determined for this allegation to be upheld. She never expected to receive a letter from a clinical psychologist stating it was unlikely I would touch anyone in this way. As such she was left with no choice but to claim his opinion was not correct.
Her statement that my ‘physical contact’ made those concerned feel uncomfortable refers solely to statements written by Ven, Anna and Bart. The fact I had proven conclusively that all three lied throughout their witness statement made no difference.
With regards to tickling someone’s leg, here’s what happened. Towards the end of our return flight to London I touched Ven’s ankle for a split second whilst he was sitting on a bar stool in First.
Two crew members who were present at the time witnessed what took place. Both had worked alongside Bart and I on two long sectors. One was Lottie the other Katrina. Katrina was sitting next to Ven at the bar when I touched his ankle. Lottie was standing alongside them.
Although Katrina was new to the company she was working up a rank in the role of First Class Purser. Prior to joining she had been an onboard manager for many years at her previous airline.
The word “tickled” was used by Ven in his witness statement. I wouldn’t describe making contact with someone’s leg with your forefinger as tickling.
The following comes from Lottie’s witness statement;
“Towards the end of the flight Laurence was in very high spirits and was laughing and joking with the crew.”
Although Bart was not present when this incident took place, Ven must have mentioned it after the flight. I believe that’s the reason why Bart came up with the idea of accusing me of inappropriate touching. He just needed to convince others to support his story.
After I touched Ven’s ankle he gave no indication he was upset by what had taken place. I was just having a joke with him and Katrina, Lottie and several passengers who were present at the time all laughed. Ven also laughed and said “you gave me such a fright”.
Had he been upset by what had taken place there was plenty of time for him to speak with me. He could also have reported the incident to his manager upon returning home. He said absolutely nothing about it until he was asked to submit a witness statement more than three months later.
My finger was in contact with Ven’s ankle (over his sock) for less than two seconds. In her witness statement Katrina who was sat right next to him said she was unaware of me touching anyone inappropriately at any time.
Ven also accused me of squeezing his waist yet in his witness statement says he did not see me touch anyone else inappropriately.
Crew member Mia accused me of touching her leg whilst she was helping with the service in First Class. She also states she did not see me or was aware of me touching anyone at any time.
In this industry you have to make friends quickly. You can fly with someone once and never see them again. Spending ten hours together on a flight means there’s plenty of time to chat and to get to know each other. Considering so much touching was allegedly going on, nobody apart from Bart and Anna witnessed it or was even aware of it.
Peter and Mia were best friends. In his witness statement Peter says Mia told him I had been “quite physical on a few occasions”.
In her witness statement Mia states I touched her leg whilst in First Class and then says “I don’t wish for this to be taken further”.
In May 2020 when redundancies were announced in response to Covid-19 I was told my job was at risk. I was on long term sick once again because my mental health had deteriorated as a result of having to deal with this abhorrent complaint. I had been off work since December 2019.
My employment was terminated in September 2020. When my P45 arrived a few weeks later in the post there was nothing attached to it and nothing else in the envelope.
It had been several months since I had spoken with my manager. The last email I received which was from someone in the office I didn’t know was to invite me to appeal the decision to make me redundant. I declined the offer.
That’s how my thirty years with this airline came to an end.