|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 Virgin Atlantic
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 Crew Crew Management team frequently changed the way they assessed the performance of cabin crew and onboard managers. 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 Cabin Supervisors. They in turn completed an appraisal on the Flight Manager and their own team of crew.
Until quite recently the cabin crew rank were never required to do upward performance management on onboard managers.
A number of years ago the airline introduced something called a Rave Review. Its purpose was to enable any member of cabin crew to write a short review about a colleague on the flight. That could be someone of the same rank or higher.
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 to Orlando on Boxing Day on a Boeing 747 aircraft with more than 400 passengers we were four crew down.
In the grievance submitted by Bart he not only lambasted the way I carried out my duties from start to finish but made the complaint extremely personal. The same goes for witness statements completed by his now ex fiancee Anna and the crew with whom they colluded.
The three crew members who worked alongside Bart and I in Upper Class spoke well of me in their statements and had little criticism about the way I carried out my duties. Little notice was taken of anything they wrote.
Following the first investigative meeting with crew manager Lana I wanted to show what crew who had flown with me over the years thought of me as a person and a Flight Manager.
Although cabin crew management had access to all mandatory performance appraisals the Rave Review was an optional form that was not held on file.
I’m proud to say I received quite a few over the years they were in use. I decided to send them all to Lana as evidence. They were sent by Royal Mail tracked and signed.
The following emails are self explanatory;
As a result of the stress of the investigative meeting which took place a couple months after I lost my dad, I was off work for several weeks. When I returned I asked at cabin crew check-in for the envelope but nobody could find it.
Having spoken to my manager he tracked it down and said he may be able to post it to me. I was concerned it may end up getting lost so told him to keep the envelope 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.
Take a look at the following screenshot which comes from evidence I submitted as part of this grievance.
Having initially been told the reviews had been shredded I thought this crew manager was having a joke with me. I soon realised he was being deadly serious.
Bear in mind 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 reviews that dated back many years? Obviously not.
My Performance Management Record
Take a look at the following two screenshots. Bear in mind this complaint came about because Bart was not prepared to receive constructive criticism despite performing well below standard.
Three crew members who worked alongside us in the Upper Class cabin stated in their witness statement they did not see and were not aware of any unusual behaviour at any time between Bart and myself. They also had no complaints about the way I conducted myself on or off the aircraft. Bear in mind the flight to and from Atlanta is almost nine hours.
Two of those people had flown previously and the third had been cabin crew with the company 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 very interesting. I feel however that because of the subject matter of this blog 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” for not wearing my tie.
Thirteen years later I addressed exactly the same issue with Bart. Lower down I’ll include a screenshot of what I said and his response.
The following screenshots come from two performance reviews written on me by my manager in 2005 and 2006.
Regarding the situation mentioned in the “Ensuring Effective Relationships” section of the second screenshot, I had recently flown with a Delhi based crew line manager. She was working as cabin crew but was there to assess the performance of the Delhi based crew. She was working with them at the back of the aircraft.
During a busy meal service the Economy Cabin Supervisor complained to me the manager and a crew member with whom she was good friends were messing around in the galley and it was affecting the service. She had tried to address it but they weren’t taking any notice.
I spoke privately with the manager but it didn’t go down well. She subsequently reported me.
When my manager flew with me it was on a flight to Delhi. He had arranged for her to once again be part of the crew.
Regarding the issue of 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 waking through the cabin 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 rest 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 from his complaint.
The crew are always woken up ten minutes before the end of their break. This is to ensure they’re back in the cabin and ready to work 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 line 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 Upper Class.
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 training course to learn how to deliver the service in Upper Class.
Around 2012 the system was changed. Instead of being a natural progression to move up a rank, the Juniors now had to apply for promotion.
This had long been the case when moving from Senior to Cabin Service Supervisor (CSS) and from CSS to Flight Service Manager (FSM). That was because both were onboard managerial roles.
Working as cabin crew is pretty much the same irrespective of which cabin you work in. The main difference is the way the service is delivered and in Upper Class to some degree the way customers are looked after.
In 2013 having been a Junior for two years my partner submitted an application for Senior. Only the highest performing crew were eligible to apply.
As part of the process he was required to submit a C.V, an accompanying letter explaining why he felt he was suitable to work in Upper Class and then had to go through a complex set of psychometric tests. Those who passed this stage were invited for a telephone interview.
Completing Onboard Appraisals
Before going for promotion to Senior my partner received an email from his manager. It said the company were looking for ideas for a new onboard performance management system. They wanted it to include the ability for Junior and Senior crew to do upward performance management on the onboard managers. This had never been done previously.
Thinking it would look good on his file for when he applied for promotion we put something together.
Without boring you with all the detail what we came up with was very similar to what was later implemented. The main difference was that instead of the crew having to write feedback, we compiled six questions that had to be answered with ‘agree’ or ‘disagree’.
One crew member working a certain position in each of the three cabins would be required to complete a short upward appraisal on either the cabin supervisor they were working alongside or the Flight Service Manager.
Cabin Supervisors and Flight Managers also had to write performance appraisals on each other and on members of their team.
We believed the most important thing was to ensure those completing feedback remained anonymous. That way it could be honest and there would be no uncomfortable confrontations should people fly together again in the future.
When the new system was launched the feedback that had been written was made available quarterly. To further protect the identity of those who had written it dates and flight numbers were removed.
Although I occasionally received constructive feedback it was always written politely and I used it to try and better myself.
Some of the comments being written about Flight Managers however was incredibly rude, personal and offensive. Worse still, some onboard managers were also writing some pretty unpleasant things about the cabin crew.
There was only room on the company iPad to write a short appraisal. Having raised this with the manager responsible for implementing apps on the newly introduced iPad, he told me if we needed more space it should be completed on paper. This is how it had been done for the last thirty years.
Along with a newly introduced “Voice of Customer programme” the company believed they now had an accurate tool for assessing the performance of each crew member.
The purpose of a Voice of Customer programme is to collect feedback about a product or service. Armed with that information the business can work towards creating a better customer experience.
The Voice of Customer programme is not designed to be a performance management tool for employees.
Using an algorithm the company came up with a scoring system to rank the performance of onboard managers. The individual’s score was compiled partly from Voice of Customer feedback and partly from performance appraisals written on them anonymously by the cabin crew.
The scores were later used to decide who would keep their job and who would be made redundant in response to cutbacks following the outbreak of Covid-19.
When a passenger completes their Voice of Customer questionnaire, in the section about the cabin crew, whilst it seems like they’re scoring the crew members who served them their score is actually used to rate the performance of the cabin supervisor who’s running the services and the flight manager.
In many cases that customer may not have had any contact throughout the entire flight with either of those people.
The questionnaire includes tick boxes for ‘very poor’, ‘poor’, ‘good’, ‘very good’ and ‘excellent’. There was also a small area for additional comments. In the months after being launched the scores and uncensored free-text comments relating to the cabin crew section were made available for onboard managers to share with their crew.
Some of the comments were really offensive. Furthermore it soon became obvious that some customers were scoring ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’ for things that were totally out of the crews’ control.
One ‘very poor’ I received was because a customer sitting at an emergency exit wasn’t allowed to keep his laptop for take-off and landing. This is not permitted in line with UK Civil Aviation Authority regulations so must be enforced by the crew.
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 cabin crew as ‘very poor’. That mark brought my scores down considerably.
The following screenshot is my scorecard for the first period after I returned to work in March 2018. The system 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. That makes my total score 77.67%.
The combined average score for my base which was Heathrow and my rank which was flight manager (FSM) was 72%. That means my performance was well above average.
In the next period my scores dropped slightly but were still above average. Everyone’s scores fluctuated depending on the route, aircraft type and problems encountered.
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 the cut off point not to be considered for redundancy.
When redundancies were announced I was on long term sick as result of dealing with the grievance raised by Bart. I had been off since December 2019.
Since September 2019 I had only operated flights to Tel Aviv. With it being a new destination the cabin crew performance scores were lower than on many other routes.
Customer feedback is always lower on a new route for the first few months. That’s something the airline are aware of. I had also had three lengthy periods of sickness so the number of performance feedback scores on my file would have been lower.
Printed scorecards like the one above confirm I was an above average performing Flight Manager throughout 2018 and well into 2019. My scores dropped in 2020 because of absence and operating a new route.
I had been an above average performing employee with a clean work record for almost thirty years. That could be seen from performance appraisals written on me over many years. Suddenly within a space of a couple of months I was being told I was under performing.
Several weeks after being advised I was being made redundant I received this plaque in the post. It came with a golden lapel pin to wear on my uniform. I also received a “congratulations” card from the company CEO. The same CEO who reported my comment on Workplace to the Head of Cabin Crew which led to the second grievance.
I couldn’t believe what was printed in the bottom left corner of this “award”.
They clearly use these plaques at award ceremonies and have the text changed 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.
To end this chapter I want to include some screenshots from upward performance appraisals that were written on me during my last eighteen months as a Flight Service Manager.
They were written anonymously on newly introduced iPads by cabin crew I worked with.
As you read more about the complaint submitted against me by Bart, his now ex fiancee Anna and their friends, you’ll at least have seen what the vast majority of crew who flew with me thought of my conduct and performance.
Scores are out of 5.