Being Cabin Crew | The Ugly Truth Part 4

Table of Contents

Being Cabin Crew | The Ugly Truth Part 3

Page 1 – Fighting Hatred in the Workplace
Page 2 – Employing a Sociopath
Page 3 – The Day that Changed My Life
Page 3 – When It All Becomes Too Much
Page 4 – Shalom Tel Aviv
Page 5 – Post Flight Customer Feedback
Page 6 – Cue Second Disciplinary
Page 7 – Outcome of the Grievance
Page 8 – Yee Haw The Last Page!

Being Cabin Crew | The Ugly Truth Part 5

The Day That Changed My Life

In 2010 I lost my mum. She woke up one morning and didn’t feel well. After seeing her doctor she was told she had a urine infection. He gave her antibiotics and she returned home.

Later that day she was really poorly. I called an ambulance and she was taken to hospital. My mum had a terrible phobia of hospitals. My dad went with her in the ambulance, I followed a short while later.

When I arrived she was very stressed. She was on oxygen but only to relax her. Having spoken to the nurse I was told my mum had a urinary tract infection and due to her age, they were keeping her in overnight for observation. They were just waiting to see which ward she would be going to.

My dad and I were with her in a curtained off cubicle in Accident and Emergency. I kept telling her to lay down and relax. I thought she had eventually fallen asleep but her breathing didn’t sound normal. When I tried to speak to her she didn’t respond. I called the nurse who was alarmed and asked me how long she’d been breathing like that.

My mum was unresponsive and was taken for a scan. Not long afterwards we were told she’d had a massive stroke and it wasn’t looking good. She passed away later that evening.

smiling mother and son
28th September 1922 – 19th August 2010

My dad was 88 at the time but fit and well for his age. We were both traumatised at the sudden loss.

Later that evening my dad told me he couldn’t go back to where they had both lived. He never went there again.

My dad was nowhere near ready to go into residential care because he was far too active both mentally and physically. At the same time he wouldn’t have managed living alone. With us not having any other family we decided he would come and live with me.

It was never going to be easy because our relationship was complicated. Whilst we never said a bad word to each other we didn’t really talk that much at all. I have always been very private and no aspect of my life as a gay man was ever discussed with my parents.

I want to go back just for a moment to 2001, the year of the 9/11 attacks in New York. Just weeks earlier I started seeing someone who two years later became gravely ill.

Having spoken to my manager to tell him I was considering leaving he fought hard and managed to get me part time.

The years that followed were filled with unimaginable stress and sadness. In 2008 when my situation changed I returned to work full time. Just two years later finding myself once again as a carer my manager allowed me to return to being part time.

Looking after an elderly parent comes with many challenges. My entire family was my dad so there was no outside help. Flying kept me sane because it gave me time and space to recharge my batteries.

In 2016 my dad was 94 but still mentally sharp and physically fit. He went out walking every day for a few hours. Whilst out one morning he had a fall and from then on everything changed. He had stitches in his head and the bruising took weeks to go down.

Not long afterwards he caught pneumonia and was hospitalised. As part of the infection he went completely deaf. I spent almost every waking hour for the next three weeks by his side.

elderly man with cuts and bruises to his head and around his eye

Having made a full recovery he was discharged. He regained enough of his hearing to be able to wear hearing aids but didn’t get on with them. Whilst in hospital he was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL).

By the time he came home he had really aged. He’d lost his confidence and still enjoyed walking but wouldn’t go out alone. He also needed much more help with everyday tasks and that was all down to me.

Having CLL and glaucoma meant there were plenty of hospital appointments.

elderly gentleman smiling

Life was tough but in the previous months whilst away on a trip I had met someone and was in a new relationship. He was also cabin crew for the same airline. Some months later he moved in. Having some emotional support helped enormously but I was beginning to struggle with my mental health.

Although we spoke about residential care my dad hated the idea. Living in the house meant he still had his independence to a degree. Our relationship had improved and my partner and I often took my dad for days out. His two loves were football and horse racing.

a young and elderly man standing together on the grass with other people behind them
A day out at Kempton Park racecourse

My entire life revolved around my dad. My only respite was going to work but being away for any longer than one night was difficult. I occasionally did a two night trip which was like a mini holiday. The last real holiday I had was 2006 and that was just a few days in Brighton. My last overseas holiday was 2004.

By 2014 I was fighting agonising depression and anxiety. I tried hard to hide it from my dad which wasn’t easy.

I was at my happiest when in the air and away on trips. From the second I stepped onto the aircraft I felt a sense of calmness and freedom.

My manager was aware of my situation and whenever I needed time off for hospital appointments did what he could to help.

male virgin atlantic crew member
About to leave Miami

With me being part-time and my partner being full time we were constantly swapping trips around to ensure one of us was always at home. Since being hospitalised my dad didn’t like being left alone overnight.

Part-time at the airline was like gold dust. Until about 2013 cabin crew returning from maternity were automatically allowed to return on a part-time contract but for everyone else it was incredibly difficult.

It was 2017 before the company finally announced part-time was being opened up to anyone who wanted to apply. Two new contracts were created and applications could be submitted once a year.

The following comes from a letter sent to all cabin crew in August 2000. It was from the boss of the company. Part-time was opened up seventeen years later.


The Freedom service was a new style of service introduced in First Class. It allowed customers to eat whenever they wanted as opposed to everyone having lunch/dinner at the same time. Furthermore everything they wanted to eat from the menu including what they had on their plate for their main course had to be chosen individually.

With the introduction of this new service the cabin went from a sea of calm to chaos.

“Extra staff” were never added to the “busiest routes”. If anything the number of cabin crew on each flight was continuously reduced. Operating flights crew down was not unusual especially over bank holidays.

In 2014 my partner submitted an application for part-time. Having discussed it we decided it would make the situation at home a little easier. We hoped the application would be successful on compassionate grounds but it was quickly rejected. Although anyone could apply there was no guarantee of success.

As part of his appeal I decided to write to the Head of Cabin Crew. I wanted to explain what was going on in my life and why the part-time application had been submitted.

The email which was marked “private and confidential” included some very private and personal information about my health. I wanted to be honest about what I was dealing with in the hope it would lead to the application being reconsidered. The fact I didn’t know and had never met the Head of Cabin Crew made it easier to be more open with her.

The email I sent to the Head of Cabin Crew was passed to six different managers. Each one told me they were unable to deal with it so passed it to another.

They all knew me and I knew them. I was extremely unhappy with the contents of the email particuarly in regards to my health being shared, especially with people I had known for many many years. It’s the very reason it was marked Private and Confidential.

At one point it was passed back to the Head of Cabin Crew who then passed it to yet another cabin crew manager. Having then complained about it being passed to someone lower than her to deal with she told me this person was a “senior” cabin crew manager.

By then I’d had enough and wrote to her manager to complain about what I felt was a breach of confidentiality. I received a swift response and a meeting between my partner and the company was subsequently arranged.

During that meeting he was offered part-time was but told it could only be for six months. It would then be reviewed.

It had taken a long time to get to this point. With each passing day looking after my dad became more challenging. He was no trouble but there were many factors that made the situation at home extremely difficult for us both.

Having reached the point where I could no longer cope I went on antidepressants. It was a desperate and last resort.

My partner remained on a part time contract at the airline for about one year and then left the company.

I don’t know whether the Head of Cabin Crew was ever spoken to about the way my correspondence had been handled. There may have been repercussions but I really don’t know.

Looking back at what took place in respect to the complaint raised against me by Bart, everything was now beginning to make sense. The second grievance requested by the Head of Cabin Crew in response to what was a relatively minor incident was further evidence of this being a witch hunt.

In September 2018 a couple of months before the flight to Atlanta with Bart, someone I was extremely fond of who was a Purser passed away.

Laurence (my partner) and I attended the funeral. Prior to the service we stood outside the church with several cabin crew from the airline. Some I knew others I didn’t. Whenever someone new arrived we all smiled and said hello.

Someone then approached the group who most people knew. I had no idea who she was. When our eyes met I smiled and nodded. She looked right through me with stone-cold eyes. It seemed an odd reaction but I didn’t think too much of it.

After the service I mentioned it to Laurence and asked who she was. He said she was the Head of Cabin Crew. I never gave it a second thought other than thinking she wasn’t very friendly. Bear in mind the incident regarding her sharing my email took place four years earlier.

Whilst dealing with the grievance raised by Bart and the second grievance matter regarding my tongue-in-cheek comment, I couldn’t help but wonder whether what happened that day was intentional.

Here’s a tweet from someone very close to the boss at the airline I worked for. I replied telling her how difficult it had been getting my partner transferred to a part time contract. Needless to say I received no response. I also emailed Carers UK telling them how much I had struggled being a carer. I received no response from them either.

My dad lived with me for almost nine years. Even after he went into residential care I went to see him every day without fail unless I was away on a trip.

Being the sole carer for my dad for the best part of nine years took its toll on my mental health. That was reason I was on long term sick for almost two years in 2016.

a tweet about being a carer

Here’s another tweet from that same person which I also replied to.

a tweet about mental health

When It All Becomes Too Much

By 2017 looking after my dad at home had become incredibly difficult. We both agreed the time had come for him to go into residential care. It was an incredibly difficult and emotive decision to make.

For reasons it’s not necessary to go into, securing him a place at the home we wanted was not easy. After eight difficult months fighting with the council he finally got a place.

A few months after moving in he celebrated his 95th birthday. It was an emotional day to finally see him in his new home. He was relaxed, relatively happy and was being well looked after. The previous eight years had been really tough.

He passed away very peacefully in January the following year. It was a couple of weeks after I returned from my Christmas trip with Bart.

father and son and a big birthday cake
7/9/1922 – 10/01/2019

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