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.

Most Jewish people feel connected in some way to Israel. The type of aircraft being used meant as cabin crew we would have an overnight stay.

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.

Click the image below to watch a video for the launch of the Tel Aviv route.

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 cabin crew 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, forty synagogues and many Jewish schools. North west London which incorporates Hendon, Golders Green and Edgware has a significant Jewish population. I grew up in Edgware and still live in the area.

Article/Photos from the JC – 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 the cabin crew on our flights. I felt it was a good move and would definitely be well received.

I decided to 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 better 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 ask why men have curly sideburns, why do they wear large black hats, why do the women wear wigs?

I wasn’t initially going to include so much of what I wrote in my blog but having re-read it feel it’s really important to show how much of my own time I gave to the company to help get this route off to a good start.

This is particularly relevant because of what subsequently took place between me and the CEO.

copy of written correspondence
copy of written correspondence
copy of written correspondence
copy of written correspondence
copy of written correspondence

I closed with some history of the Jewish race, explained why orthodox people often spend the flight reading biblical texts and suggested some must-visit places in Israel.

An image I used at the end explained what many believe to be the roots of antisemitism. The article took up both sides of an A4 sheet of paper.

The person responsible for writing the introductory brief on Israel for the business was someone I’d known for many years. With her not being Jewish I sent her a copy. I also posted a message on the company’s communication platform saying if any other Flight Managers wanted a copy to share with their crew I could send them 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. Once again my reason for sharing this is because I want to show how much of my own free time I gave to the company to help with the start-up of this new route.


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 the opportunity to represent a company I had worked for for almost thirty years on this first flight 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.

cabin crew in their flight briefing room
The pre-flight safety briefing

Although the first flight left Heathrow on 25th September 2019 it wasn’t the official press launch flight. That was planned for the following month.

The launch of the route had been planned to coincide with the Jewish New Year. Being one of the most important holidays the first flights were all full.

On that 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 of cabin crew and everyone was looking forward to the day ahead.

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

There was a lot of excitement during the flight and we all worked non-stop 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 mainly with regards to catering, the crew did an amazing job.

At our hotel the management had laid on champagne and a small buffet full of traditional snacks and cakes. It was a lovely gesture.

Our layover 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 then spending the twelve months before this flight fighting a fictitious grievance, I no longer had the confidence in myself that I once had.

Just two weeks before this flight I’d had an awful experience on a flight to a Miami. I hadn’t yet realised that what happened was a panic attack. A panic attack that came about because of the huge amount of stress I was dealing with.

The following screenshot comes from a message posted on a private group we set up on Workplace after returning home from that first flight. It was set up so the crew could all share the photos we’d taken with each other.

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 as cabin crew. We both trained together after joining the airline in 1990.

He’s the only person in the world who gets away with calling me Larry!

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.

A week or so before my flight to Tel Aviv I sent crew manager Hayley an email asking her to be mindful about when she advised me of the outcome. It was due imminently and I didn’t want to receive it whilst away on a trip or on the day I landed. 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 pretty tired. The last three days had been incredibly exciting and I was already looking forward to going back to Israel on my next flight.

Once home I put the kettle on, had some toast and was about to start telling my partner about the last three days. I then received an email which I opened. A minute later I was reading the outcome of the grievance investigation sent 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 been cabin crew it’s difficult to explain the meaning of “landing day”. When you fly long haul, on the day you land home you’re usually exhausted and jetlagged.

Everyone acts 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 the outcome may have been very different.

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

FM = Flight Manager.

This comes from another section of the same document.

Hayley – Line 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 Cabin Crew. 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 Cabin Crew claimed Hayley was conscious how long the process had taken and wanted to ensure I didn’t wait any longer. Another twenty four hours wouldn’t have made any difference.

Throughout her investigation she told me Hayley was a very experienced manager. So experienced that multiple pages 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.

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 Cabin Crew that it did appear as if Hayley was being guided by Employee Relations Consultant Pedro. She also stated that at one point she was even reading from the wrong set of notes.

Crew manager Hayley even upheld a complaint that had already been dismissed during the initial investigation. Yet she’s a very experienced manager. I was a very experienced Flight Manager yet that counted for absolutely nothing at all.

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

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

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

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

During my subsequent three meetings regarding the second disciplinary matter, I wasn’t aware of the Employee Relations Consultant offering guidance to either manager who conducted the meeting.

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

It wasn’t my perception and the Union rep’s perception that Pedro was guiding Hayley on the “{airline name} process”. 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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