Being Cabin Crew – The Ugly Truth

Table of Contents

Page 1 – Cabin Crew Mental Health
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

Cabin Crew Mental Health

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. As soon as redundancies were announced I knew my cards were marked.

During my 30 years of employment I had a clean record, worked hard and was passionate about delivering exceptional standards of service. I loved going to work and carried out my duties to the highest standard.

In later years as a Flight Manager worked closely with the cabin crew to gain trust and respect, ensured safety and service procedures were followed and tried to create a happy working environment.

Mental health matters especially in the workplace 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 (FM) my partner became gravely ill. I suddenly found myself facing some difficult decisions.

Flying full time wasn’t easy and part time wasn’t an option because it was only really offered to crew returning from maternity. Having told my manager I was considering leaving 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 and was rarely off sick.

In performance appraisals written on me by colleagues throughout my time as a Purser and also after being promoted to 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. 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. I managed to swap with a colleague 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. More than three years later 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.

Tweet saying we know mental health matters

At the time this all began I had been back at work for less than a year after being off for eighteen months with issues relating to my mental health.

What I was put through by several cabin crew line managers and the Head of Cabin Crew defies belief.

They were all fully aware of my situation and knew I was crumbling under the pressure of having to deal with a fictitious grievance raised by a new employee still in probation.

Unknown to me at the time this was a witch hunt that came about because of an encounter I’d had with the Head of Cabin Crew some years earlier. She wanted revenge for me having reported her for a serious breach of confidentiality and was prepared to go to whatever lengths necessary to achieve it.

Allegations of Inappropriate Touching

Identifying details throughout my blog have been changed to protect the identity of the airline and those involved in this case.

During a flight to Cape Town not too many years ago I was asked to speak with a customer sitting at the front of the “Premium” cabin.

Since take-off she had been asking to be upgraded because her husband couldn’t get comfortable. 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 use the bed.  Having explained I wasn’t able to upgrade them she said they had been upgraded many times 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, as a Flight Manager I wasn’t authorised to upgrade them.

She told me they had flown out to Cape Town in First Class 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 she only wanted to be upgraded. At this point in time the company strictly prohibited us from upgrading anyone to First Class.

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 can be and explained I’d been a carer for many years for my partner. Her response was to say “he probably had AIDS”.

Her comment resonated because my ex partner did have AIDS. Those years were some of the most difficult and traumatic of my life.

Flying as cabin crew 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 enjoy 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.

photo of a group of male and female cabin crew in a hotel reception
Vancouver 2012 (taken with an old iphone)

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 with mental health issues. I never believed I’d be well enough to fly as cabin crew again.

Incredibly I did manage to return to work in March 2018. 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.

I always worked hard and 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 tried to create a fun and relaxed working environment.

On 24th December 2018 I operated a flight to Atlanta. During the eighteen months that followed I considered taking my life 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 an ex serving police officer.

My alleged conduct during the flight and whilst in Atlanta led to a complaint for bullying, harassment, overbearing supervision and inappropriate touching. The ex police officer had been with the airline for eleven months so was still in probation.

Prior to joining the company he had been a serving police officer for eight years. His fiancée was also on the flight as cabin crew although I was unaware of their relationship. She 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 he said nothing to anyone during the flight or whilst in Atlanta. Even after landing back home he didn’t speak to his manager to raise concerns about my alleged behaviour.

I’m going to refer to this individual as Bart.

I had allocated Bart a working position in First Class. Working in this cabin meant he would be working alongside me and four other crew.

He was aloof and unfriendly from the second we met which is unusual for cabin crew. I initially put it down to shyness.

When I asked him during the pre-flight briefing whether he’d worked in the First Class cabin before he confirmed he had many times.

What I witnessed on both sectors showed otherwise. I had to address a number of issues with him on both sectors of the flight 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 what I should have done.

Having received it 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.

He made twenty separate complaints about my performance, ability and conduct.

Despite proving unequivocally that Bart, his fiancée and four cabin crew with whom they colluded were lying, the allegations were upheld. Almost nothing that I said to the company 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 had happened between us.

For his complaint to be upheld he knew he would need witnesses so colluded with several members of the crew.

His now ex fiancée was good friends with two crew members and a third crew member was on the flight with his best friend. Another crew member who had been called for the flight from standby was more than happy to support Bart’s lies for reasons that will become clear later in the blog.

As someone with an impressive memory which his fiancée Anna (not her real name) confirmed in her witness statement, Bart used facts from situations that had taken place and twisted the truth. This made the allegations extremely difficult for me to defend.

The following screenshot comes from her witness statement. She was working at the opposite end of an A340-600 which is a very long aircraft. She only came to the front cabin where Bart and I were working once and stayed for just a few minutes.

copy of written text
From the witness statement submitted by Anna, Bart’s fiancee. “Workplace” by Facebook is a corporate communications platform. FM = Flight Manager which was my rank.

In addition to Bart, three other cabin crew one being Anna also accused me of inappropriate touching. Her witness statement and one written by crew member Ven (not his real name) are so vile, poisonous and full of hatred that even now I find them incredibly difficult to read.

All five witness statements submitted by the cabin crew who supported Bart’s complaint were full of lies and inconsistencies. It was plain to see collusion had taken place.

The remaining three statements written by the crew who worked alongside Bart and myself in First Class and those written by the Captain and First Officer were honest, accurate and told a very different story.

Despite providing endless amounts of evidence to the company to prove Bart, Anna and their accomplices were lying, the cabin crew managers dealing with the case and the Head of Cabin Crew who later dealt with my appeal refused to believe anything that I said.

Four out of the six crew 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 screenshot comes from his 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.

copy of written text
From the witness statement of crew member Ven

Along with Bart and myself there were four other crew working in First Class. Lottie was the longest serving crew member 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. All names have been changed .

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 cabin crew manager dealing with the case 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 she compiled 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.”

Out of eleven questionnaires which included the Captain and First Officer 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 had spoken about something I have struggled with for my entire adult life. I believe it stems from a very 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.

The first screenshot below comes from Bart’s complaint. The second is from the outcome of the appeal heard by the Head of Cabin Crew.

copy of written text
From the complaint submitted by crew member Bart

copy of written text
Outcome of appeal carried out by Head of Cabin Crew

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 Cabin Crew joined the airline sixteen years after me in 2006. 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 overrode the opinion of 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. I’ll talk more about that shortly.

The three crew members who worked in the same cabin as Bart and I stated they were not aware 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 worked at the opposite end of the aircraft.

The remaining witness statements confirmed nobody saw me touch anyone inappropriately or was even aware of any such behaviour.

The following comes from Anna’s witness statement. For point of reference I’m five foot seven;

copy of written text
From the witness statement of Bart’s fiancée Anna

I believe the Head of Cabin Crew was determined for the allegation of inappropriate touching 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 had 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 statements made no difference.

To put the incident regarding “tickling a crew member’s leg” into perspective, towards the end of our return flight to London I touched Ven’s ankle for a split second whilst he was sitting at the First Class bar.

Two cabin crew witnessed what took place, both were working in the same cabin as Bart and I. One was Lottie, the other Katrina. Katrina was sitting next to Ven at the First Class bar when I touched his ankle, Lottie was standing alongside them.

Katrina was working up a rank in the role of Purser (PUR). Prior to joining the airline she had been an onboard manager for many years at another airline.

The word “tickled” was used by Ven in his witness statement. I wouldn’t describe touching 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 obviously told him about it after the flight. I believe that led to him coming 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 leg he gave no indication he was upset by what had taken place. I was just having a joke with him and the cabin crew and passengers present who witnessed what I did all laughed. Ven also laughed.

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 nothing to anyone about it until he was asked to submit a witness statement some three months later.

My finger was in contact with Ven’s leg (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 out in First Class. She also states she did not see me or was aware of me touching anyone else at any time.

As cabin crew 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.

Crew members 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 she alleges I touched her leg whilst in First Class and then says “I don’t wish for this to be taken further”.

I’ll cover both points in more detail later in the blog.

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 with issues relating to my mental health. The reason was purely because of having to deal with this abhorrent complaint. I had been off work since December 2019.

I was made redundant a few months later and subsequently received my P45 in the post. It was the only piece of paper in the envelope.

It had been several months since I had spoken with my new line 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 year career with this airline came to an end.


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