|Table of Contents |
Being Cabin Crew | The Ugly Truth Part 1
Page 1 – Retaliation, Making it Personal
Page 2 – Performance Management System
Page 2 – My Performance Management Record
Page 2 – Combining the Rank of Junior and Senior
Page 2 – Completing Onboard Appraisals
Page 3 – The Early Days at the Airline
Page 4 – More of the Good Old Days
Page 4 – Cabin Crew Life Downroute
Page 4 – Pre-Flight Safety Briefings
Being Cabin Crew | The Ugly Truth Part 3
Performance Management System
The company frequently changed the way team members and onboard managers were assessed. The problem with every performance management system they implemented was that it was open to manipulation.
The working environment on the aircraft was generally very friendly. It was common for good friends, relatives and even spouses to fly together.
The Flight Manager was required to complete a written performance appraisal on both Pursers. They in turn completed an appraisal on the Flight Manager and their own team of crew.
Until 2018 the cabin crew rank were not required to do upward performance management on onboard managers.
A number of years ago the airline introduced a free-for-all feedback form. Its purpose was to enable any team member to write a short review about a colleague on the flight whatever their rank.
They were only to be used if the crew member witnessed outstanding performance and felt it should be documented. The only one I have can be seen below. The reason I only have one is not because only one was ever written on me.
On this full flight on Boxing Day on a Boeing 747 with more than 400 passengers we were four crew members down.
In the grievance submitted by Bart he not only lambasted the way I carried out my duties but made the complaint extremely personal. The same goes for witness statements completed by his now ex fiancée Anna and the crew members with whom they colluded.
The three team members who worked alongside Bart and I spoke well of me in their statements and had no complaints about the way I carried out my duties. Little notice was taken of anything they said.
Following the first investigative meeting with Crew Manager Lana I wanted to show what crew who had flown with me over many years thought of me as a person and as a manager.
Although the company had access to all mandatory performance appraisals, the “Rave Review” was an optional form that was not held on file.
I received quite a few over the years they were in use. I decided to send them all to Lana as evidence. With them having sentimental value I sent them “tracked and signed”.
The following emails are self explanatory;
As a result of the stress of the investigative meeting which took place just a couple months after my dad died, I was off work for several weeks. When I returned I asked at our check-in area for the envelope but it couldn’t be found.
Having spoken to my manager he managed to find it and said he may be able to post it to me. I was concerned it may end up getting lost because I knew he wouldn’t send it “tracked”. I therefore told him to keep it there. I said I’d collect it when I checked in for my next flight.
Being part time meant I only flew a few times a month and admittedly forgot to ask for the envelope the next time I checked in. I wasn’t worried because it was in the safe.
The following extract comes from evidence I submitted as part of my grievance against the company.
Having initially been told the reviews had been shredded I thought this manager was having a joke with me. I soon realised he was being deadly serious.
Each review had my full name on it, my managers name and my employee number. Despite having been in the safe for “some time” it was there for a reason.
Did this manager not think of getting in touch with me before shredding a large stack of performance reviews that dated back almost twenty years?
My Performance Management Record
Take a look at the following two screenshots. Three crew members who worked alongside Bart and I in First stated in their witness statement they did not see and were not aware of any unusual behaviour between Bart and I at any time.
They also had no complaints about the way I conducted myself on or off the aircraft. The flight to Atlanta and the flight back to the UK is around nine hours.
Two of those people had flown previously with another airline for thirty years. The third had been with this airline for eight years.
Out of the remaining seven crew, five colluded with Bart, two failed to return their witness statements.
I appreciate reading a performance appraisal on someone you don’t know is not particularly interesting. I feel however that because of the subject matter of this story it’s important to share a couple of examples with you.
Not having looked at my old performance management for many years I had to laugh when I saw I was once given a “Needs Improvement” score for not wearing my tie.
Thirteen years later I addressed exactly the same issue with Bart.
The following extracts are two performance reviews that were written on me by my line manager in 2005 and 2006.
Some of the terminology may be difficult to understand but it gives you an idea of the standard of my work.
Regarding the situation mentioned in “Ensuring Effective Relationships” in the second review, I had recently flown with a Delhi based Cabin Crew Manager who was working on the flight as cabin crew.
She was there to assess the performance of the Delhi based national crew. She was working with them at the back of the aircraft.
During a busy meal service the Economy Purser advised me this manager and a crew member with whom she was good friends were messing around in the galley. It was affecting the service and despite having tried to address it they were taking little notice.
I spoke privately with this Cabin Crew Manager but it didn’t go down well. She subsequently reported me to my manager.
When my manager flew with me on this appraisal flight we were on a flight to Delhi. He arranged for her to once again be part of the crew.
Regarding me removing my tie whilst on the bus to the hotel, I learnt from that and never did it again.
The performance management that included this comment was written in 2005. When I flew with Bart in 2018 I noticed he removed his tie before walking past customers to the crew rest area (CRA) to start his rest break.
I didn’t address it with him at the time not because I was avoiding doing so but because by the time he returned from a two hour break I had forgotten about it.
In the following screenshot you’ll see my comment from the performance management that I wrote on him (black text) and the reply in his complaint.
The cabin crew are always woken up ten minutes before the end of their rest break. This gives them enough time to freshen up and be back in cabin before the remaining crew go on their break.
By 2012 I had been a Flight Manager for eleven years. Having flown with a Cabin Crew Manager and raised an issue with her about the uniform shoes, I received the following email from her following the flight;
OBM is an abbreviation for onboard manager.
Combining the Rank of Junior and Senior
Since joining the airline in 1990 there had always been a Junior and Senior rank. Juniors worked in Economy, Seniors in First.
The length of time spent as a Junior varied greatly and was dependant on whether more Senior crew were required. Once advised you were being promoted you would attend a service delivery training course.
Around 2012 the system changed. Instead of being a natural progression Juniors had to apply for promotion.
This had long been the case when moving from Senior to Purser and from Purser to Flight Manager.
Working as cabin crew is pretty much the same irrespective of which cabin you work in. The main difference is the way services are delivered.
Completing Onboard Appraisals
Onboard managers have always been required to complete a short performance assessment on their crew at the end of each flight. For many years a simple tick box system was in place to grade performance and ability.
In 2014 the system changed so cabin crew and onboard managers were both required to complete written feedback on each other. It was no longer just a tick box exercise. One crew member from each cabin was selected to write upward feedback on either their Purser or the Flight Manager.
The Pursers had to write feedback on each crew member in their team and on the Flight Manager. The Flight Manager wrote feedback on the Pursers and one other crew member.
The company shared all feedback with the crew once every three months. The system was designed to be anonymous so no details that could identify the person who wrote the feedback or the flight it was written on were shown.
As well as written feedback the crew member or on-board manager writing the review also had to grade the person being assessed a score out of 5.
Feedback was completed on each crew member’s newly issued company iPad. There was only room for about two short paragraphs. Having raised a concern regarding how much could be written I was told if a more detailed review was required it should be completed on paper.
Along with a newly introduced “Voice of Customer programme” the airline believed they now had an accurate tool for assessing the performance of crew members in all ranks.
The purpose of a Voice of Customer programme is to collect feedback about a product or service. Armed with this information the business can work towards creating a better customer experience.
The Voice of Customer programme is not designed as a tool for managing performance.
The airline created an algorithm which enabled them to produce a score to rank the performance of each crew member and onboard manager. The score for the onboard managers came partly from Voice of Customer feedback and partly from anonymous reviews written by the cabin crew.
Voice of Customer feedback is an optional survey completed by passengers after their flight.
This is an example of passenger feedback received after one of my flights. These customers could have been sitting anywhere on the aircraft. It’s unlikely they had any contact with me personally at all.
The “poor” and “very poor” marks would have brought my performance scores down considerably.
Scores from these Voice of Customer surveys were used to decide who would keep their job and who would be made redundant in response to Covid-19.
In the months after the Voice of Customer programme was launched the scores given to the cabin crew and uncensored feedback comments were made available for onboard managers to share with their crew.
Some of the comments were incredibly offensive. Crew were also being blamed given low scores for issues that were out of their control.
One “very poor” I received came from someone sitting at an emergency exit. He had been told by a crew member that he couldn’t keep his laptop for take-off and landing. This is not permitted in line with UK Civil Aviation Authority regulations.
Another was from a customer I had spoken to personally about a dietary meal that hadn’t been loaded. Despite spending extensive time with him and resolving the problem as best as I could, he marked the crew “very poor”.
The following screenshot is my scorecard for the first period after I returned to work in March 2018. The new system of feedback had only recently been introduced.
My score from Voice of Customer (VoC) is 66.28%. The score from performance management (PM) which is upward feedback written anonymously by the crew is 8.91. So my total score is 77.67%.
The combined average score for my base plus my rank was was 72%. That means my performance was well above average.
In the next period my scores dropped slightly but were still well above average. Everyone’s scores fluctuated depending on the destination, type of aircraft being used and problems encountered during the flight.
Having been notified in June 2020 I was going to be made redundant, I was told that apart from having a final disciplinary and written warning on my file, my performance scores were below average.
When compiling performance scores for the purpose of deciding who should be made redundant, the period used by the company was 1st April 2019 to 30th March 2020.
When redundancies were announced I was on long term sick as result of dealing with the grievance raised by Bart. I had been off sick since December 2019. That means the period used to assess my performance was 1st April to December 2019.
The scorecard above covers October, November and December 2018. It shows I was well above average. In my scorecard for January, February and March 2019 I was also above average.
Yet from April to December 2019 my scores demonstrated I was an underperforming Flight Manager.
From September 2019 I only operated flights to Tel Aviv. With it being a new destination for the airline performance scores were lower than on other routes.
According to the manager of the Product and Service Delivery department customer feedback is always lower on a new route for the first few months.
I also had three significant periods of sickness during 2019. I was off for about eights weeks in total.
The company stated if they were unable to collate enough feedback to produce a fair score (due to sickness absence), they would go back further than 1st April 2019.
Printed scorecards like the one above confirm I was an above average performing Flight Manager throughout 2018 and until at least March 2019.
I had been an above average performing employee for the best part of thirty years. That was evident from performance appraisals written on me throughout my employment.
Suddenly within the space of a few months I was being told I was an underperforming employee and that was a contributing factor as to why I was being made redundant.
Just a few weeks after learning I was being made redundant I received this award in the post. It came with a golden lapel pin to wear on my uniform. A uniform I hadn’t worn for several months because I was off sick and wouldn’t wear again before my employment was terminated.
I also received a “congratulations” card from the CEO. The same CEO who reported my tongue-in-cheek comment to the Head of Department which led to a second disciplinary.
I couldn’t believe what was printed in the bottom left corner of this “award”.
They clearly use these at award ceremonies and just change the text to suit the event. As if sending this to someone who had just learnt he was being made redundant wasn’t bad enough, above my name was the word “winner”. That’s not appropriate even if I wasn’t being made redundant.
After what I had been through over the last twelve months I was anything but a winner.
This was the card that accompanied the plaque. The name of the CEO was printed in block letters at the bottom of the card.
The perspex plaque, this card and my P45 is what I received for 30 years of loyal service to the company.
To end this chapter I want to include some excerpts from upward performance feedback that was written on me anonymously during my last eighteen months as a Flight Manager.
Scores are out of 5.