Being Cabin Crew | The Ugly Truth Part 2

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

The Early Days at Virgin Atlantic

I stayed with this company for thirty years because I loved my job, believed I did it well and worked alongside some amazing people.

In this section I want to talk about the early days.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 747 in 1990 parked on the ramp
G-Virg – Maiden Voyager

After leaving Thomson Holidays in 1989 I had no idea what to do next. Prior to that I had worked in head office but office life wasn’t for me.

Having seen a new airline were recruiting, I applied and was offered a position as cabin crew. I started a month later.

The training which lasted six weeks was held close to the airport. At that time they only flew from Gatwick. They had six old 747 aircraft and flew to Tokyo, JFK, Newark, Miami, Orlando and Los Angeles which had only recently been launched.

Group of happy laughing Thomson Holidays reps around a table smiling for the camera
Having finally left Thomson Holidays after many years, Harry (on the right) joined Virgin Atlantic as cabin crew. We hadn’t seen each other for almost 30 years.

two male Virgin Atlantic cabin crew members standing in the galley
And here we are towards the end of a flight home from San Francisco

My first day was 18th June 1990, I was group 53.  Apart from a holiday to Orlando shortly after leaving Thomson and a few trips to Israel, I had never been out of Europe and had never been on a Boeing 747.

I remember the excitement of boarding an aircraft during my training that had recently landed from Tokyo.

In 30 years of being cabin crew I never once took my job for granted. 

copy of written correspondence

A couple of weeks into our training we received our first roster.  Two of us were going to JFK on Saturday 28th July. 

Surnames of my course colleagues have been removed for privacy. The number to the right was our seniority so at that time, Sarah was the most junior cabin crew member in the company.

copy of a crew members flying roster
Our first flying roster. Group 53 | July 1990

In 1990 eighteen cabin crew worked on the 747 which included one inflight beauty therapist.  On the Tokyo route there were 19 crew.

The IFBT aka inflight beauty therapist worked in Upper Class offering a neck and shoulder massage, a hand massage or manicure to a small number of customers.

two Virgin Atlantic inflight beauty therapists
Inflight Beauty Therapists (IFBT’s)

The crew was made up of one Flight Supervisor, two Pursers and a mixture of Senior and Junior crew.  The Flight Supervisor was later renamed Flight Service Manager (FSM).

A Purser worked in each cabin and led the services and managed and coached their respective teams.  The rank was later renamed Cabin Service Supervisor (CSS).

The airline was very different back then. In 1990 they were six years old, the cabin crew were young, enthusiastic, loved flying and time downroute was very sociable. It really was a great company and I felt privileged and proud to be part of it.

Downroute is when you’re overseas on a layover. With the airline being so small most of us knew each other and flew together often.

The first two photos which were taken in 1991 are on a flight to Japan. In the photo on the left, the seats where I’m standing were fitted for crew rest breaks which were mandatory on this route. The bottom two photos were taken during my training.

Young Virgin Atlantic cabin crew in 1990

Young Virgin Atlantic cabin crew
Back in the 1990’s

The salary was always pretty abysmal but in the early days we had great perks and many long layovers. We also received a monetary flying allowance to cover expenses whilst away. We received that in cash in U.S dollars as we checked-in.

The allowance for Japan was higher because it was based on the price of buying food locally. We also received a £50 long sector payment but like so much else, it was taken away in the mid 90’s.

By spending only what was absolutely necessary it was possible to bring money home from each trip which supplemented the salary.

The offer of employment letter stated flying allowances could be as much as £4,500 per year which was fairly accurate but dependant on the trips you did.

copy of a payslip
My first payslip as a Junior in 1990.

copy of a payslip
My payslip 29 years later. Duty free sales commission this month was quite good, it was usually less than £1.

Virgin Atlantic salary review letter from 1998
Salary review from 1998

By 1998 I was a Purser (Cabin Service Supervisor). When I was made redundant in 2020 although part time, my salary was just over £14,000. I had been a flight manager for nineteen years and with the company for thirty.

Since the late 90’s the flying allowance had been continually reduced. As opposed to receiving the money in cash as we once did, it was now loaded onto a payment card. Furthermore in accordance with H.M Customs regulations instead of being able to bring the money home to top up our salaries which everyone did, we were informed around 2006 it all had to be spent whilst downroute.

That was a considerable amount of money to lose from your salary but the change was implemented slowly over several years.

We then started being told flying allowances were never designed to supplement our salary and should always have been used for food whilst away. As you can see from my offer of employment letter that was not made clear.

When our salaries were confirmed for the purpose of a mortgage application a percentage of the flying allowance was added to our basic. That enabled us to borrow slightly more.

My first flight as far as I can remember was uneventful.  Although excited about the journey I was more excited to be going to New York. I was expecting to walk out the hotel into the hustle and bustle of the city but was disappointed to find we stayed a very long way from Manhattan. In those days you couldn’t just Google the location of the hotel.

Having arrived at the luxurious Garden City hotel on Long Island (things have changed considerably since then) the crew said they would all be meeting to go out for a drink.

I showered and knocked for my course colleague. By the time we got to the lobby everyone had gone. We ventured outside and walked a short way with no idea where we were going. We ended up going back to our rooms.

The only thing I remember about my return flight was being asked by the Purser to have a walk around the cabin. Stepping out of the galley I found what appeared to be a used sanitary item on the floor and was told to clear it up. Getting tomato juice off the carpet was never easy!

Playing jokes on cabin crew on their first flight was the norm and something we all did well into the mid 2000’s.  As the culture began to change, the atmosphere on-board also changed. The jokes stopped because everyone was far too scared of being reported which many people were.

With that said, I love to make people laugh so still occasionally joked with colleagues. I was always very careful because everyone gets offended so easily nowadays.

On my flight home from Atlanta with Bart on 25th December 2019 I played a joke on crew member Ven. He was sitting with a colleague at the Upper Class bar. Crew shouldn’t be sat on bar stalls at the Upper Class bar in full view of customers but it wasn’t something that particularly bothered me.

I was sweeping the carpet with the dustpan and brush shortly before landing. I was on my hands and knees behind him and he hadn’t seen I was there. I touched his ankle (over his sock) to give him a fright and as my finger made contact with his leg he jumped and looked down.

He was sat on the middle stall, Katrina who was working up as Cabin Supervisor was sitting to his left. Lottie was standing at the end of the bar. Several customers were waiting for toilets. I touched his leg instead of Katrina’s because he was closest to me.

When Ven jumped everyone laughed including him. He then continued speaking with Katrina and I went off to do other things. Lottie made reference to this incident in her witness statement.

Although Bart was not present, Ven clearly shared the incident with him at some later stage. I believe this is how he came up with the idea of accusing me of inappropriate touching.

upper class bar Virgin Atlantic

Ven was sitting at the Upper Class bar showing Katrina how to do some paperwork

The following screenshot comes from Ven’s witness statement. I had praised his standard of work throughout the flight and thanked him several times for helping us in Upper Class.

He was an experienced crew member who worked to a high standard. That’s why I asked him to show Katrina how to complete the Upper Class drinks bar paperwork. I was busy doing other things including sweeping the carpet to clear up the mess left behind after the breakfast service.

I always did this because customers walked through this area whilst disembarking.

copy of written correspondence

You’ll notice despite his struggles with basic literacy, Ven states three times that me touching his leg made him feel very uncomfortable. As an ex police officer Bart would have fully understood the importance of emphasising these words. His ex fiancee used the same words multiple times in her witness statement.

Ven is a cunning and malevolent individual who had a score to settle with me. He had been called for the flight from standby and boarded the aircraft at the same time as passengers. He had been told he would be working up a rank as cabin supervisor but I had changed his working position.

I was standing at the boarding door when he arrived. After introducing himself we moved to the galley where I explained I no longer needed someone to work up a rank. I said I had placed him in the Premium cabin because I felt with his experience he would be well placed to help in Upper Class if necessary.

That was the position I was going to work before being told someone had been called out on standby. I asked several times whether he minded not working up to which he replied, “I don’t mind where I work”.

As you’ll see from his witness statement in due course, he was in fact irritated at not being allowed to work up in the rank in which he’d been called out.

Although the cabin crew received a ‘working up’ payment which he would now miss out on, it appears from his witness statement he was more annoyed that two crew who had been with the airline for less time than him were given that opportunity.

His witness statement is rude and offensive from start to finish. The allegation I squeezed his waist is grotesque. Like me Ven is gay and that’s relevant because of something I’ll talk about later in the blog.

Despite proving unequivocally not only that he lied throughout his entire statement but also that he colluded with Bart and another crew member, the Head of Cabin Crew wasn’t interested.

The inappropriate touching allegation was upheld purely on evidence taken from Bart’s complaint, his fiancee’s witness statement and witness statements written by Ven and Mia.

Crew member Mia also accused me of touching her leg. It really wasn’t difficult to prove her and Ven were lying. Why as a gay man I’d want to touch a female crew member’s leg who’s young enough to be my daughter I don’t know.

Ven worked to a very high standard and I praised him on several occasions during both sectors of our flight. He had attended a recent ‘Incredibles event’ which is a prestigious evening where staff with the highest performance scores are nominated for various awards.

I’m sure many plaques like the one I received for 30 years of service with the word “winner” on it are given out.

The Incredibles Event

I want to share two screenshots. The first is an upward appraisal written anonymously on me by one of the crew who worked alongside Bart and I in Upper Class. I believe it was written by Claire.

The second is from the witness statement of Katrina who worked up as cabin supervisor.

“Rating” is the score she awarded me out of 5. “Brief” refers to my pre-flight briefing prior to leaving the UK;

copy of a short performance review with a score out of 5

From the witness statement submitted by Katrina, cabin supervisor in Upper Class

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