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

Shalom Tel Aviv

In 2019 the airline announced a new route to Tel Aviv. It seemed like an unusual destination for the company but one I couldn’t have been more excited about.

The company wanted to make the entire journey a unique experience from start to finish. They felt one way of achieving that would be to ensure the crew had a basic understanding of Jewish culture and traditions.

A training day was arranged for a small group of Flight Managers and Pursers who had volunteered to operate the route for the first few months.

This image comes from a video for the launch of the Tel Aviv route (it’s clickable).

virgin atlantic onboard managers listening to one of the group speaking
On-board manager training day to learn about Jewish culture and traditions.

Very few flying staff in the company are Jewish. The total number of Jewish on-board managers was no more than maybe ten. From those who volunteered to be part of the “Tel Aviv core crew” just 5 of us were Jewish.

Considering the day was being held in Hendon I was surprised we had to attend in uniform.

During the morning we were told we would be visiting a Jewish cultural centre for a talk from a Rabbi. We would then be given a guided tour of a kosher supermarket in Golders Green. I then realised why we were in uniform.

Golders Green has a large Jewish community. This relatively small suburb has a huge number of kosher eating places, synagogues and many Jewish schools. North west London which incorporates Hendon, Golders Green and Edgware has a significant Jewish population.

Article from the Jewish Chronicle newspaper

The company wanted a small group of onboard managers to operate the route for the first few months. We could then share cultural knowledge with team members on our flights. I felt it was a good move and would definitely be well received.

I put together some information of my own to share with the crew on my flights. I thought they may find it interesting and would give them a basic understanding of Jewish people and the culture.

I tried to address some of the most common questions I’d heard over many years from non Jewish crew.

Whenever a crew member found out I was Jewish they’d often ask me questions about the religion.

The information I put together filled both sides of an A4 sheet of paper. It answered many questions that I’d been asked over the years by non Jewish colleagues. I also included other information that I thought would be useful for them to know in order to offer the best possible service on this new route.

In one section I spoke solely about ultra orthodox people, why they do certain things and how best to look after them on the aircraft.

Prior to each pre-flight briefing I photocopied the information and gave a copy to each crew member on my flight.

The next few paragraphs come from the information I wrote;

“Orthodox men will not touch a woman who is not a close blood relative because the bible states men should not have a physical relationship with someone of the opposite sex who is not a close blood relative.  This is made clear in the bible hence a handshake or touch on the shoulder may arouse “inappropriate” feelings.

It’s difficult to tell how orthodox a Jewish man is. Whilst some make it obvious others do not.  If a man is wearing a kippah take it that he is orthodox.  If a man is wearing a kippah avoid touching them whether that be on the shoulder, arm or to shake their hand.

Although it’s mostly ultra orthodox men who abstain from contact with women, it’s a good rule to follow.  It’s fine for a male to touch another male and in a medical situation whilst it would be preferred that a man touch another man, if that’s not possible it is acceptable for them to be touched by a woman.

Many orthodox women wear a wig, the correct name for this is a sheitl.  Its purpose is to protect the woman’s modesty hence her hair must be completely covered.  Some ultra orthodox women shave their head whilst others just ensure their hair is completely covered by the sheitl.  This practice is similar to Muslim women who wear a headscarf.

In Jewish dietary law milk and meat is never ever mixed. The two must always be kept apart.

To distinguish a meat meal from a meal that contains milk the terms meaty and milky are used.

Most orthodox Jews will have a different set of cutlery/crockery for meat and milk. Meals will be prepared in different parts of the kitchen with one being the meaty section and the other milky.  Many orthodox Jews have a separate sink and dishwashers and if possible completely separate kitchens.

It cannot be emphasised enough that milk and meat products must never come into contact with each other.   This dietary law dates back thousands of years and came about because the bible states a calf should not be cooked in its mother’s milk.”

As well as sharing some great places to visit in Israel I also provided some basic greetings in Hebrew. An illustration I used to close the page explained what many believe to be the roots of antisemitism.

The person responsible for writing the introductory brief on Israel for the business was someone I’d known well for many years. With her not being Jewish I sent her a copy.

I also sent a copy to a few people in the office including a Senior Manager. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t breaking any rules.


A few days later I received a copy of the company’s brief which hadn’t yet been published.

Here’s the exchange of emails between myself and the person who wrote it.

In light of the disciplinary I received following the complaint made by the CEO about my tongue-in-cheek comment, I feel it’s really important to share how much of my own free time I gave to try and help make this new route a success.


When our monthly rosters were published I was excited to find I was the Flight Manager on the first service to Tel Aviv. Being given this opportunity especially as my thirty year anniversary approached was a genuine honour.

Although I have always been able to read/speak Hebrew my conversational skills were far more limited. Since the route was announced I had been studying to enable me to make announcements in Hebrew and to converse with Hebrew speaking passengers.

Although the first flight was in September 2019 it wasn’t the official press launch flight. That was the following month.

The launch of the route coincided with Jewish New Year so all flights were full.

On the first flight I was asked to look after an influential blogger and friend of the CEO. We also had Israeli press on-board. I had a great team and everyone was looking forward to the flight.

A member of film crew standing inside the aircraft filming three cabin crew

There was a lot of excitement and we all worked hard to make the experience memorable. After the lunch service I made the announcement in Hebrew and English advising men if they wanted to say after dinner prayers they could do so in the back galley. I drew the curtains for additional privacy and made sure they weren’t disturbed.

Orthodox Jewish men saying prayers in an aircraft galley

An aircraft galley full of orthodox Jewish men saying prayers
Photos were taken by another passenger who posted them online

The flight was incredibly busy and despite plenty of challenges the crew did an amazing job.

Our stopover in Israel was 24 hours. Our departure from the hotel was 04:30. Although busy, the return flight was nowhere near as crazy as the flight over. I was looking forward to getting home to tell my partner about the trip.

I was happy with how both flights had gone and hoped I’d done the company proud. Since returning to work in March 2018 after being on long term sick and with me continuing to fight a fictitious grievance, I no longer had the confidence in myself that I once had.

Just two weeks before this flight I had the awful experience on the flight to Miami that I spoke about in an earlier chapter.

The following screenshot comes from a message posted on a private group we set up on Workplace after returning home from the first flight to Tel Aviv. It was set up to enable us to share photos from the trip.

The person who posted the comment was a trainer from the office. When he flew he was the same rank as me but on this flight was working down. Upon joining the airline in 1990 we were both on the same training group.

cabin crew on the aircraft and then after arriving in their hotel
On the aircraft and in the hotel in Israel

I was first advised of the grievance raised against me by Bart in early March 2019. The first investigative meeting took place on 9th April, the second disciplinary meeting on 15th August. It was now the end of September and I was still waiting for the outcome of Hayley’s investigation.

A week or so before my flight to Tel Aviv I sent an email asking her to be mindful about when she advised me of the outcome. I didn’t want to receive it whilst away on a trip or on the day I landed back home. This was really important for my mental health and I made that very clear.

In her response she said; “In terms of the outcome letter I am always mindful of flying duties and intend to send the outcome by email after I have reviewed your roster.”

Driving home after that first flight to Tel Aviv my head was buzzing from all the excitement. Having gone to bed late and woken up early I was very tired. The last three days had been brilliant and I couldn’t have been happier.

Once home I put the kettle on, had some toast and was about to start telling my partner about the trip. I then received an email which I opened. A minute later I was reading the outcome of the grievance investigation sent to me by Hayley.

Despite submitting an overwhelming amount of evidence to prove Bart, his now ex fiancée and the crew with whom they colluded had lied, all complaints against me including one that had already been dismissed had been upheld.

Unless you’ve ever flown as cabin crew it’s difficult to explain the meaning of “landing day”. After completing a long flight/duty period, on the day you land home you’re usually exhausted and often jetlagged.

Everyone reacts differently. Some people go to bed, others chat to friends or family and then there are those who just want to be left alone.

Landing day is not the day to be receiving the negative outcome of a disciplinary investigation.

Although Tel Aviv is a short flight and the time difference just two hours, I’d been on a high for the last three days so hadn’t slept well.

Having been advised the grievance was being upheld I felt complete and utter despair. It was a very, very dark moment in my life.

I went to bed with terrible thoughts going around in my head. Thankfully as soon as my head hit the pillow I fell asleep. Had I come home to an empty house which I often did, I genuinely believe I wouldn’t be here today.

The following screenshot comes from documentation used in my appeal to the Head of Department.

FM = Flight Manager.

This comes from another section of the same document.

Hayley – Cabin Crew Manager who dealt with the disciplinary investigation

The following screenshot comes from the outcome of my appeal. The one after that comes from the grievance I raised against the company for the way the appeal was dealt with.

copy of written correspondence

Head of CC – Head of Department. This screenshot comes from the grievance I raised against the company.

The half-hearted apology was utterly pathetic. I’d waited six weeks for the outcome yet the Head of Department claimed Hayley was conscious how long the process had taken and wanted to ensure I didn’t wait any longer. Another twenty four hours would not have made any difference.

Throughout her investigation she told me Hayley was a very experienced manager. So experienced that multiple lines of text in the outcome of her investigation were obscured by the letterhead of the paper. She had no idea what she was doing during the grievance meeting and was openly being guided by the Employee Relations Consultant.

She didn’t add a hard copy of evidence that I sent her via WhatsApp to the file. She upheld a complaint from Bart that had already been dismissed by Lana during the initial grievance investigation.

I then received the outcome of her investigation within an hour of arriving home after a flight despite asking in writing that she be considerate about when it was sent.

The same Union rep’ accompanied me to all grievance meetings. She confirmed during the appeal meeting with the Head of Department that it did appear as if Hayley was being guided by the Employee Relations Consultant. She also stated that at one point Hayley was even reading from the wrong set of notes.

Yet according to the Head of Department she was a very experienced manager.

I was a very experienced Flight Manager having been in my role for nineteen years yet that counted for absolutely nothing.

The following screenshot comes from documents submitted as part of my appeal and the subsequent response from the Head of Department.

copy of written correspondence
From documents submitted as part of my appeal

From the outcome of my appeal conducted by the Head of Department. MPD = Manager Performance and Development which is a crew line manager

During the first grievance investigation meeting with crew manager Lana, Pedro was also present. He didn’t “guide her on the airline’s process” at any time.

During my subsequent three meetings regarding the second disciplinary matter, the Employee Relations Consultant didn’t offer guidance to either Cabin Crew Manager or the Head of Department who conducted the meeting.

During all three meetings the only time the Employee Relations Consultant spoke was to clarify something that had been said.

They certainly didn’t question me in the way I was questioned by Pedro during the first grievance investigation meeting.

It wasn’t my “perception” and the experienced Union rep’s perception that Pedro was guiding Hayley on the airline’s processes. He was guiding her because she had no clue what she was doing. At one stage he even said “I’m trying to guide Hayley”.

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