|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
More of the Good Old Days
Throughout the 1990’s flights were always full. Working as a Junior was always hectic. In those days we rarely had a break because there was nowhere to sit down.
On a day flight we’d be on our feet from take-off to landing. East coast USA was manageable but west coast was a killer. The flight to Los Angeles could be close to eleven hours. Night flights were always difficult but we didn’t know any different.
In later years the company would sometimes block off four Economy seats to share between 18 cabin crew so we could have a break.
Breaks can only be taken between services in the cabin. If the flight was overbooked which most flights were, the seats would be used for passengers.
With the exception of the Tokyo route breaks were at the discretion of the Flight Manager and many weren’t overkeen on giving them.
Towards the late 90’s two existing aircraft were fitted with crew bunks in the tail. Some of the newer aircraft that joined the fleet also had bunks. Despite that, crew breaks for the Juniors were still rare.
The Seniors would almost always get a break on night flights because their services took less time to complete.
From about 2004 on West coast U.S flights the company agreed to leave four seats in the last row of Economy free. By the time we started crew breaks passengers had usually moved into them. We were not allowed to move them out.
In more recent years with most aircraft having crew bunks breaks were given on most flights, time permitting.
Flying as cabin crew long haul especially full time is extremely tiring. Throughout my time as a Flight Manager I always tried to give my crew a break on both sectors providing it didn’t jeopardise the service.
I always expected my team to carry out their duties to the highest standard. I led by example and worked hard alongside them in all three cabins. I felt I was warm, approachable and was always ready to have a laugh and joke which created a fun and friendly atmosphere.
The crew community during the 1990’s was very regimental and there was great respect for seniority. Juniors rarely went to the First Class cabin even to use a toilet. Seniors never came to Economy.
The Seniors ate First Class food whilst the Juniors ate whatever was left in the ovens after the service.
There was always a food cart for the crew but the quality was dire. There was never anywhere near enough to go around and the offering rarely changed.
On the bus to the hotel the Captain and First Officer sat at the front, the Flight Manager sat behind followed by the Pursers and Seniors. The Juniors were always like the naughty school kids at the back.
Upon arrival at the hotel we’d collect our room keys in the same rotation. There was no resentment because it’s just the way it was. Despite how it may sound, it was an amazing airline to work for and the vast majority of cabin crew were warm lovely people. Of course there were exceptions but they were few and far between.
I was a Junior for four years which was unheard of in those days. When the Gulf War broke out in 1991 people stopped flying so flights were virtually empty. As a result recruitment and promotion dried up.
I was eventually given my Seniors course towards the end of 1994.
Two years later I was promoted to Purser.
From the late 90’s respect for seniority began to diminish. By mid 2000 it was almost non existent. Whilst things certainly needed to change, it went too far and in later years as you’ll see through the course of this blog, many but not all cabin crew had little or no respect for onboard managers.
As the airline began to modernise the Seniors very slowly began helping in Economy once they’d finished their service.
Juniors who were brave enough also began venturing into First to use toilets and to ask if there was anything left over to eat.
I’ve included the following letter because it’s relevant to comments about my performance and ability made by Bart, Anna and Ven.
Cabin Crew Life Downroute
Whilst waiting for our room keys someone would usually call a room party.
Each crew member was allowed to take a small amount of alcohol off the aircraft but it was widely abused.
At a room party with eighteen crew there was rarely a shortage of alcohol. Cocktails made up in empty water bottles often appeared out of nowhere.
There was almost always a room party on the evening we arrived. They were sociable, rowdy, incredibly smoky and totally unpredictable. They were always fun but some were more fun than others.
Depending on the length of the layover we often stayed together. We’d usually meet for breakfast and then decide how to spend the rest of the day. In those days we didn’t have mobile phones.
If we had more than one night we’d go for dinner as a large group. That usually ended in disaster because too much alcohol was consumed and there were always arguments over the bill.
The early years were so much fun. It really was the best job in the world.
Some cabin crew you would fly with quite often whilst others you may not see again for many years if ever. At crew check-in and whilst arriving or departing from some hotels you could bump into someone you’d once had a great trip with but had not seen for many years.
Promotion including to Purser and Flight Manager in the early days was automatic. When the need for more crew in a higher rank was required you’d be rostered a training course.
It was done strictly on date of joining but the system changed to an application and interview process just before I applied for Purser in 1996.
In August 1990 I went horse riding up to the Hollywood sign in Los Angeles. It sounds really cool but the horses were just following each other in one long line. I’ve always remembered it because on the way back down they walked on the very edge of the path. Immediately to the left was a sheer drop into a deep canyon.
When we reached the bottom the ranch staff were gathered around a radio listening to the news. America had just bombed Baghdad. That was the start of the first Gulf war.
The airline struggled through the next few years but as things picked up they leased more aircraft and introduced new routes.
Having finally been promoted to Senior I loved working in First. The cabin was calm, spacious and unlike Economy there was plenty of time to chat with customers.
Being someone who once loved to talk, I could usually be found at the bar playing barman whilst exchanging stories with people from all walks of life.
Life was good and my worklife could not have been happier.
Pre-Flight Safety Briefings
Once cabin crew arrive at the crew check-in area for their flight they wait to be called for the pre-flight briefing. Conducted by the Flight Manager it lasts no longer than twenty minutes and is the first time the entire crew get together.
After introductions the Flight Manager talks about the flight, the services and safety onboard. Any other relevant points are also covered. Each Purser also delivers a short service related briefing.
The UK Civil Aviation Authority requires each crew member to be asked “at least one” safety related question during the briefing. This is the most nerve racking part and once over everyone begins to relax.
The Flight Manager asks each crew member a question individually. If you can’t answer or answer incorrectly you’re asked a second question. Failure to answer can lead to you being stood down. In thirty years I had never known anyone to be stood down although I was aware happened albeit very rarely.
The safety questions were written by the safety department and came from the Safety and Emergency Procedures Manual.
Until 2003 Flight Manager’s wrote their own questions so the crew could be asked anything from the entire manual. With that said, most people asked similar questions. It was rare to be asked something you’d not been asked before.
Before being a Flight Manager I never forgot how nervous I felt during that part of the briefing. After being promoted, during my pre-flight safety briefings I always tried to take the pressure off as much as I could. Everyone hated that part of the briefing. I think I only had to ask a second question a handful of times.
In later years the safety department issued the questions. The crew were told what section of the manual they came from. The same questions were used for several months so the crew would hear them time and time again.
Over the next couple of paragraphs I want to explain something that will make more sense as you read down the page. The way the company wanted us to conduct the pre-flight briefing changed many times over the years.
A couple of months before my Christmas Atlanta with Bart, during a conversation with my manager he told me they wanted briefings to become more interactive. The Flight Manager does most of the talking and they wanted the cabin crew to get more involved from the start. The first opportunity for them to really speak was to answer their safety question.
There was already a huge amount of information we had to deliver and the briefing could last no longer than twenty minutes.
One of the first things we had to do was read out some ‘aircraft familiarisation points’. With us all flying on several types of aircraft it was an opportunity to refresh everyone’s memory with regards to equipment and procedures on the aircraft we were about to fly on.
Seven points were listed that had been written by the safety department, they never changed. We had to read out any three.
I decided instead of reading the points out, to get the crew more involved I would ask them as questions to the group as a whole. Asking the crew to shout out the answers would get everyone involved from the start.
I included all seven points and added a further two of my own. The additional questions were how do you make an emergency announcement using the interphone system and how do you make a regular announcement. I included them because it varied from aircraft to aircraft so believed it would be useful.
With a list of nine points I could use different questions each flight. Due to time constraints I’d usually ask about four or five depending on the response. The idea was to get everyone involved.
Having used the new format a few times the response was mixed.
In the pre-flight briefing for the Christmas Atlanta there were ten cabin crew with experience ranging from six months to eight years.
The following screenshot comes from the witness statement of Anna, Bart’s fiancée. The black mark obscures Bart’s name.
The crew were asked questions twice during the briefing. The first time was the aircraft familiarisation points that I asked as questions to the group. I said “just shout the answers out”.
Each crew member was then asked an individual safety question which is a mandatory part of the briefing. The questions are uploaded to the Flight Manager’s iPad. With this set of questions having been used for the previous three months the crew would have heard them many times before.
Anna claimed her and Bart were asked more difficult questions yet I was unaware they knew each other let alone were engaged to be married.
Absolutely nothing Anna says in her hateful diatribe is supported by other members of the crew in their witness statements. As I will prove throughout my blog she’s a nasty, malicious and incredibly hateful individual. She has all the traits of sociopath.
The following screenshot also comes from her witness statement. The black mark covers my surname. Bear in mind she had joined the company about one year earlier. She had previously been cabin crew with British Airways.
As part of their witness statement the crew were asked the following questions;
Please share any observations on flight manager Laurence’s PA’s onboard the aircraft. Were you aware of any feedback from crew or customers regarding his PA’s?
Only Bart, Anna and Ven stated they were aware of negative comments regarding my announcements. In the remaining five witness statements nobody had any recollection of them or was aware of any complaints from other members of crew or passengers.
Crew member Peter who had been with the company for six months brought a friend with him on the trip. It was her first time flying with the airline. In his witness statement he wrote;
“I can’t recall any customers commenting on his PA’s but I took a companion and she did mention his PA’s were really long and didn’t need to be.”
Peter and Mia are best friends. Mia accused me of touching her leg. She is also good friends with Anna. You may recall crew member T said he had two friends on the flight who would support him working up. They were Ann and Mia. Peter and Ven also have a connection that will become clear in due course.
In T’s witness statement he wrote;
“I remember a few crew members commenting about them (my P.A’s) not sounding particularly professional.”
Were this to be true he could have addressed this in anonymous upward feedback that he was required to write on me. He didn’t complete that or write feedback on any of his crew despite it being mandatory for both sectors.
He told me prior to the pre-flight briefing he didn’t have his iPad but the feedback could have been done on paper. If he didn’t have the correct paperwork he could have asked me for it.
There were no complaints about me or my ability as a flight manager on the Voice of Customer questionnaires and no complaints were received by Customer Relations.
According to statements written by Bart and Anna all of my P.A’s were “long and rambling”. Bart claims my after take-off announcement was more than five minutes long. As you’ll see in the screenshot below, Ven says I didn’t make an after take-off announcement!
Crew member T was unable to confirm anything about my announcements that he had heard personally.
During my after take-off and post landing announcement the cabin crew are sitting in their seats. There’s a speaker above or adjacent to every crew seat. Following the after take-off announcement T is required to do an announcement regarding the Economy service. He would therefore have been waiting for me to finish.
Considering Bart claimed my P.A’s were more than five minutes long, only three out of the nine crew who returned their statement could personally remember anything about them.
The following screenshot comes from Ven’s witness statement. He worked in a full Premium cabin yet was unaware of a single complaint regarding my P.A’s. Anna and Bart on the other hand claimed they were aware of several complaints from customers. Bart worked alongside Ven in Premium on the outbound sector and was in First Class on the way home. Anna worked in Economy on both sectors.
After take-off the Flight Manager makes a welcome announcement. It includes safety information regarding smoking regulations and compliance with seat belt signs so it’s impossible for it not to be done.
I’m assuming he believes my P.A’s were “strange” because instead of reading them I often ad-libbed them. Not many flight managers did that.
The following comes from an old performance appraisal that was written on me by my line manager. The full document can be seen here; (scroll down to last screenshot). I had been complimented many times over the years for the way I delivered announcements.
Let me share some details about this flight to Atlanta.
The aircraft was half empty so I gave the crew a two hour rest break in the bunks. I didn’t take a break because out of eleven crew, six were relatively new and two were working up in supervisory roles. I therefore didn’t feel comfortable leaving the cabin.
During the flight I spent time speaking with several of the crew and many customers. I also did a drinks service in Economy with Mia. Anna was in the opposite aisle with a crew member who didn’t return her witness statement.
It was a quiet, problem free and very pleasant flight. The company had asked the hotel to lay on a buffet dinner for us that evening which included an open bar. Some of the crew went out afterwards but the Captain, First Officer, Lottie and myself went to bed.
The following morning was Christmas Day and a few of us met for breakfast. I then returned to my room and slept for a couple of hours before checking-out for the inbound sector.
I had enjoyed the trip but was looking forward to getting home. Just prior to leaving my room I spoke to my dad who was very poorly. Once all the crew were in the lobby someone asked everyone to get together for a photo. Several crew grabbed their cameras.
Although I’ve masked faces for anonymity, this was a very happy photo and everyone was in high spirits. The eyes are the window to the soul and by masking them it’s difficult to fully appreciate the atmosphere.
Think back to Ven’s statement in which he said he was called out for the flight and didn’t know anyone on the crew. He’s standing behind me and has his arm draped over Peter’s shoulder. If you look closely you’ll see Peter’s arm is around Ven’s waist.
In Ven’s witness statement he wrote; “he (Laurence) is quite touchy feels which is really uncomfortable on the recovering end. I would get a squeeze round my waste. It made me feel very uncomfortable”.
His level of literacy speaks for itself. Since writing my blog Ven has been promoted to Purser. He is now required to write feedback on members of the crew and the Flight Manager.
In Bart’s complaint he wrote;
“Laurence constantly touched me and other crew members on or below the hips. I’m not a touchy feely person and this action made me very uncomfortable.”
Notice how Bart and Ven both use the term ‘touchy feely’.
In Mia’s statement she accused me of touching her leg and then states she did not want the matter to be taken further.
According to witness statements from other members of the crew, nobody was aware of or saw me touching anyone inappropriately at any time.
Mia and Peter are best friends. This comes from Peter’s statement;
The following is another extract from Anna’s statement. Before reading it take a very close look at the photo above. She’s the only crew member not wearing a Christmas sweatshirt. I’m five foot seven.
On the inbound flight Anna came to the front just once during the entire flight. She stayed for just a few minutes. I rarely had the opportunity on this sector to go to the back where she was working.
I find it interesting that if I was behind her with my hands on her hips, how did she know I was “hunched over”?
Another thing to consider is Bart as an ex police officer of eight years is a “fairly confident individual” according to his statement. Yet when a strange man allegedly touches his fiancée in a way that makes her feel uncomfortable, he says nothing to him or to anyone else, even after returning home from the trip.
He’s standing on the far left of the photo behind his fiancee Anna, next to the First Officer.
Bart, Anna and Ven say repeatedly throughout their statements my alleged touching made them feel “very uncomfortable”. Bart as an ex police officer knows the importance of putting emphasis on these two words.
When asked during the initial grievance investigation meeting how I would touch someone if I had to move them out the way this was my reply. This screenshot comes from evidence submitted as part of my defence.
At the time of this first meeting when asked this question witness statements had not yet been requested.
Take a look at what the Head of Cabin Crew said regarding the allegations of inappropriate touching following my appeal. It’s important to remember according to witness statements, only Bart and Anna state they saw me touching anyone. Everyone else including Ven who accused me of squeezing his waist and Mia who accused me of touching her leg state they did not see me or were aware of me touching anyone.
Despite my alleged touching making Ven, Anna and Bart feel “very uncomfortable” they said nothing about it to anyone during the flight, whilst in Atlanta or upon returning home.
So the only physical contact that could be confirmed by my own admission was the moment I touched Ven’s ankle for a second whilst having a joke with him. It was witnessed by two other crew and a reference to the incident was made by Lottie in her witness statement.
There is no other evidence to support me touching anyone at any time. So the Head of Cabin Crew is relying on what has been said in witness statements by Bart, Anna, Ven and Mia all of whom I proved lied throughout their statements. Even though Mia is lying she says in her statement “I don’t wish for this to be taken further”.
If she doesn’t want it to be taken further why mention it? She mentions it because I believe she was coerced by Anna.
To further prove what a malicious individual and prolific liar Anna is, she stated in her witness statement that she and Mia complained to a cabin crew line manager about my behaviour prior to checking-in for their next flight. You would have thought they would have mentioned the inappropriate touching.
I spoke to that manager to ask what they complained about. She told me NOTHING was said about any inappropriate touching of any member of the crew. She said had such a complaint been made a full investigation would have been launched immediately.
She told me Anna and Mia had complained about the email they received from me on their days off. That’s quite brazen considering both were still in their probation.
In that email as well as thanking them for their hard work, I also shared the results of the Voice of Customer questionnaires from our flight home to London.
With the crew working in Economy all being relatively new and crew member T working up in a supervisory role, I offered some ideas about how their scores could be improved. One customer had made a negative comment about one of the female crew working in Economy.
Including Anna there were three female crew in that cabin one of whom I had worked with on the outbound sector. I had seen the positive and friendly way in which Mia (who subsequently accused me of touching her leg) interacted with customers. I spoke to her about the way she engaged with people when we returned to the galley.
The scores given to the cabin crew through the Voice of Customer questionnaires directly affect the performance scores of the Flight Manager. Those scores were subsequently used to assess my performance and to make me and many of my colleagues redundant.