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

Ex Police Officer now Cabin Crew

As an onboard manager I always carried out my duties with pride and in a confident and professional manner. I believed in myself, loved working for what I believed was a great airline and always tried to represent them to the highest standard.

With there only being one Flight Service Manager on the aircraft we would rarely get the opportunity to see how colleagues of the same rank worked. Occasionally we would be rostered a flight out of rank.

The way some onboard services were delivered and how hard the Flight Manager worked varied greatly. With this rank being the smallest the cabin crew generally knew most of us and knew who was nice to fly with and who could be more difficult.

From what I heard and from performance appraisals that were written on me I believe most people enjoyed flying with me. I worked hard, took care of the crew and was a fun and caring person.

With that said I expected a high standard of service and wasn’t afraid to give direction when required.

Quote from Richard Branson

Can I tag senior manager xx in this image?

The airline is a different company to the one I joined in 1990. In recent years it wasn’t unusual to check in for a flight and hardly know anyone else on the crew. With us all flying with different people several times a month every month relationships had to be built quickly.

You could check in for a flight not knowing anyone and come home a few days later feeling like you’d been away with a group of friends.

Of course not everyone got along but in the most part cabin crew are a really nice bunch of people. The one thing they all have in common is they love a good gossip and there was never any shortage of it.

After being made redundant I learnt rumours were circulating regarding my flight with Bart. Having spent thirty years with this airline I wasn’t going to allow a pack of lies from a crooked ex police officer to tarnish my reputation.

There wasn’t a shred of evidence to support Bart having been bullied or him or anyone else being touched inappropriately yet the allegations had been upheld.

The level of disrespect shown towards me in the complaint submitted by Bart is off the scale. Bear in mind he had only been in the company for eleven months and was still in probation.

Having explained in the performance appraisal I wrote on him how the Upper Class service should be delivered, he argued my version of service delivery was not correct.

I had been working in that cabin since 1995. I had also been a Flight Service Manager for nineteen years. He had never flown previously.

Virgin Atlantic stewardess serving from a trolley in Upper Class 1995
Photo taken by me around 1996

According to the Service Procedures Manual, after take-off in Upper Class the crew ask each customer what they would like to drink from the bar menu.

Once drinks have been served they introduce themselves to their customers. During the introduction they explain how the seat operates and take an order for lunch/dinner.

Only a certain number of each meal choice is loaded so depending on what everyone chooses, some people may not be able to have their first choice.

So a customer can be told straight away if what they have asked for is not available the crew should be given a breakdown from the galley. That way they know how many of each meal choice has been loaded.

For example if there are twenty customers and nine chicken, nine beef and nine fish meals have been loaded, the three aisle crew would each have an allocation of three of each. They cannot use more than their allocation. Once everyone has placed an order, whatever has not been used can then be offered to people who may not have received their first choice.

I liked this procedure and asked the crew to deliver the service in this way. On most flights however the crew would take all meal orders and hope there was enough to go around.

What usually happened was too many of one choice would be ordered. They would then have to go back to a customer to advise them they couldn’t have what they’d asked for.

One thing to bear in mind is the number of meals loaded was dependant on the number of customers. With fewer people in the cabin fewer meals would be loaded. If you had ten passengers you may only have fourteen meals.

On our flight to Atlanta having boarded all passengers we encountered a forty minute delay.

Whilst standing at the open boarding door I could see Bart across the cabin going from seat to seat talking to his customers. I thought it was a nice touch.

What I didn’t realise was he was asking what they would like to drink after take-off and what they wanted to eat for lunch.

The service is led by the CSS (Cabin Service Supervisor). The way it’s delivered would only be changed upon instruction from them or from me as the Flight Manager. However it’s delivered, all three cabin crew begin whatever they’re doing at the same time. All aspects of the service run simultaneously.

Bart didn’t tell me, the Cabin Supervisor or either of his colleagues what he was doing. It only became apparent after take-off when the crew were asked to start taking drinks orders.

Having seen his fully completed aisle order sheet I was surprised and disappointed at what he had done. Having told him that’s not the way the service is delivered I explained how to deliver it correctly.

Drinks and meal orders are very rarely taken before take-off. It occasionally happens (even though it shouldn’t) on full flights leaving late in the evening. It would never be done on a flight of almost nine hours leaving before midday in a half empty cabin.

The following screenshot comes from the performance appraisal I wrote on Bart. I was advising him of the correct way to deliver the Upper Class service;

copy of written correspondence
From the performance appraisal written on crew member Bart

In the next screenshot the blue font is from Bart’s complaint. The orange is my response. Both the screenshot above and below come from documentation used in the grievance.

copy of written correspondence
‘J’ refers to the Upper Class Cabin. The “Red Day” is a service delivery training day Bart would have attended.

The following also comes from his complaint. It gives you an idea of just how devious Bart is. This was only the beginning;

copy of written correspondence
From Bart’s complaint

Bear in mind this was a forty minute delay so was far from “unusual circumstances”. Bart had been flying for eleven months and told me he had worked in Upper Class many times before including in the galley.

Our flight to Atlanta was almost nine hours, there were twenty customers in the cabin. Looking after them were three cabin crew working in the aisles, one in the galley, a Flight Manager and a Cabin Supervisor. If things became really crazy the crew member working in Premium could also help out when they finished their service. Yet Bart stated he wanted to “save time in the air.”

The way the service is delivered is written in the Service Procedures Manual. If he had any questions about what he should be doing he could have asked me or Katrina who was working up as the Cabin Supervisor. He could also have spoken with Lottie or Claire both of whom were working alongside him in the aisles. He spoke to nobody.

This next screenshot comes from minutes taken during my first meeting with the grievance investigation manager. He claims my comment in yellow which is from the performance appraisal I wrote on him is bullying because it’s an inappropriate/derogatory comment about his performance.

Part of my role as a Flight Service Manager (FSM) was coaching and developing. I had been writing performance appraisals on crew since being promoted to Cabin Supervisor in 1998. I was promoted to Flight Manager in 2001.

A constructive feedback comment telling someone the correct way of doing something is not inappropriate or derogatory. I had also spoken to him on the flight immediately after finding out what he had done.

copy of written correspondence
From minutes from my grievance investigation meeting

The following screenshots are from evidence I submitted as part of my defence. The black text is from Bart’s complaint, blue is my response;

copy of written correspondence
Exhibits 28 – 31 are screenshots which I included from the Service Procedures Manual.

Of course as cabin crew you need to use your initiative but working as part of a team means working together and communicating. On an aircraft services are delivered in a specific manner. If everyone did their own thing it would be chaos.

It’s true to say the way a service is delivered is sometimes changed but that comes from the Cabin Supervisor or Flight Manager. When something is being done differently everyone is advised.

Bart chose to do his own thing and with a Cabin Supervisor working up didn’t expect it to be noticed.

The following screenshot comes from the Service Procedures Manual. Bear in mind Bart has just stated that despite looking in depth through the Service Procedures Manual he cannot find where it’s written about what to do during a delay and that a meal breakdown is required from the galley;

copy of a written policy
From the Service Procedures manual

copy of a written policy
This part of the service begins after take-off and after the first drink service has been completed

What you’ll see next is the “Table of Contents” I put together having decided to take this matter to an Industrial tribunal. You can also see how much evidence I put together to prove Bart and his accomplices were lying.

His complaint ultimately led to me losing my job. The points that were overturned in the grievance he raised were done so purely because it was impossible for them to be upheld.

copy of the table of contents from a long document
copy of the table of contents from a long document
copy of the table of contents from a long document
copy of the table of contents from a long document
copy of the table of contents from a long document
This huge document was my case as it would be presented at an Industrial Tribunal.

In addition to these 520 pages I also compiled a twelve page grievance against the company for the way the matter had been investigated and handled. I then wrote individual grievances on crew members Bart, Anna, Mia, Peter and Ven.

These last three photos are how I prefer to remember my time working for Virgin Atlantic.

On 99.9% of my flights over the thirty years I was employed, these are the kind of people I had the pleasure of working alongside.

Smiling happy group of Virgin Atlantic cabin crew at the in flight bar area

Two Virgin Atlantic stewardesses pretending to kiss over a service trolley
Taken around 1997

This last photo was taken on my first flight back after returning from long term sick in March 2018. I was buddying with a couple of friends.

When I checked in I was just as nervous as when I checked in for my first flight back in 1990. Seeing them both brought home just how far I’d come.

I was quite emotional returning to work for that first flight. Recovering from mental health issues takes time and a huge amount of support.

Good mental health in the workplace goes hand in hand with good management.

two male and one female Virgin Atlantic crew taking a selfie in front of a mirror

%d bloggers like this: