Being Cabin Crew | The Ugly Truth Part 5

Table of Contents

Being Cabin Crew | The Ugly Truth Part 4

Page 1 – Bart’s Performance Appraisal
Page 2 – Bart’s Response
Page 3 – Bart’s Response (cont.)
Page 4 – Behaviour/Conduct in Atlanta
Page 5 – Adult Content
Page 6 – My Behaviour in Atlanta 1
Page 7 – Bart’s Complaint Finale

Being Cabin Crew | The Ugly Truth Part 6

Bart’s Performance Appraisal

Chapter five and it’s finally time to share the performance appraisal I wrote on ex police officer now cabin crew member Bart.

The text comes directly from the original document. Where necessary explanations have been added in coloured font.

All names have been changed.

Performance Review – Bart  – employee number

VS103/4 – 24/25th December 2018

Bart was allocated an Upper Class working position by me prior to the pre-flight briefing.  When asked, he said he had worked in Upper Class before and was familiar with the service.

During the pre-flight briefing whilst asking the crew as a whole, questions about the aircraft type (Airbus A340-600) as a refresher, Bart wasn’t very forthcoming with answers and generally remained quiet.

He did however answer his individual safety question competently.

Ordinarily these “aircraft familiarisation points” would be read out by the Flight Service Manager.  There are seven listed, we had to read out three.

Having been asked by my line manager to make my briefing more interactive so the crew became involved from the start, I decided to ask the points as questions.  After telling them what I was about to do I said “just shout the answers out”.

I had done this a few times previously and received a mixed response.  During this briefing I asked six or seven questions.  Three were answered immediately by crew members Katrina and Claire.  Everyone else remained silent.

After saying in a jokey manner “shut up you two you can’t answer any more questions” I said to the rest of the crew “come on guys, if you don’t know the answers to these questions you’ll be up the creek without a paddle”.  These were very basic safety reminders that everyone would have known.

I received a half-hearted response to the remaining questions.  

For the rest of the briefing Bart mainly looked at the floor. I would have liked a little more eye contact from him.  It’s nice to see people engaging with you when you’re talking to them.

There was a slight delay on the ground departing Heathrow, Bart was in the cabin talking to his customers which impressed me.  I thought he was introducing himself and doing seat introductions however as I realised after take-off, he had been taking his drinks and meal orders.

During “seat introductions” the crew explain how the Upper Class seat operates and the associated functions. It’s usually done after take-off.

When I told him that’s not how the service is done he said customers started telling him what they wanted to eat/drink so he wrote it down.  I told him he should have explained at that point how we do the service.  Quite why he even had his order sheet with him at that time I’m not sure.  If he was introducing himself his customers’ names are on his iPad as well as their flying club status.  If they were volunteering that information it’s clear they haven’t flown with us before hence it’s a perfect opportunity to explain how the service is done.

You may recall from a previous chapter Bart said my use of the words “quite why” was “sarcastic and ridiculing him”.  This complaint was upheld throughout the grievance.

I said his customers’ names are on his iPad believing he may have wanted to address people by name. Were that to be the case names are on his iPad so it wasn’t necessary for him to have his aisle order sheet.

For clarification, at some point before or just after take-off crew copy customer names from their iPad to their aisle order sheet. They can then address customers by name when taking their order.

The only reason for Bart having his order sheet and a serving tray whilst casually talking to customers during a delay would have been to take their order. When completing the sheet crew lean on the tray.

Crew taking meal orders after take-off

Once Bart started taking orders people would have seen him coming and had their order ready when he arrived.

Whilst he was taking orders Lottie, Claire and Katrina were keeping themselves busy doing other things in the cabin. They were also chatting to their customers but didn’t take any orders.

After Bart had taken an order from every customer on his side he said nothing to anyone. Once orders have been taken the crew inform the galley crew member what meals need to be loaded into the ovens and how many of each starter they need.

Bart didn’t do that because he was aware orders should not have been taken on the ground.

At that point Bart had not been given a meal break down by the galley so wouldn’t have known how many of each meal choice was available for his side.

The total number of hot meals should be split between the three aisle crew.  Once they’ve used their allocation they explain that choice is no longer available. Once all three crew have finished taking orders whatever has not been used can be offered to anyone who couldn’t have their first choice.

Doing the service this way ensures all three aisle crew begin the service with the same number of meals to offer to customers in their section.

This is how the service should be delivered as per the Service Procedures Manual.

It’s worth emphasising I simply told Bart this isn’t the way we do the service, of course I wasn’t happy but he wasn’t reprimanded. Other Flight Managers I know would have told him in no uncertain terms what he had done was not acceptable.

After take-off I decided it wasn’t necessary to have three aisle crew in Upper Class so asked Bart to work with the crew member in Premium.

Just prior to the last service I asked him to clear in rubbish on the right side of the Premium cabin whilst I did the left side.  He was talking with another crew member in the galley.  I cleared in a few rows then returned to the galley to empty my tray and went back out to finish off.  When I returned for the second time Bart was just finishing his conversation and only then did he go into the cabin.

When asked to do something by an onboard manager providing he’s not doing anything more important, Bart needs to do what he’s asked straight away.

I did the afternoon tea service in Premium on the left aisle with the other Premium crew member.  Whilst observing Bart from across the aisle I could see he was being polite and professional but wasn’t really engaging with his customers.

This is a complaint that comes up time and time again in Voice of Customer questionnaires. In fact a comment that accompanied a ‘good’ mark that we received on our inbound sector said “although the crew member was professional they weren’t very engaging”.

Voice of Customer feedback is the questionnaire customers receive after their flight.  The crew are marked poor, good, very good, excellent. The accompanying comment actually said the “stewardess was professional but not very engaging”.  I didn’t use the word “stewardess” because I didn’t want to draw attention to whoever it was aimed at.

The customer who left the comment was not being looked after by Bart but it demonstrates how important it is that we build a rapport and engage with people instead of just methodically serving them.

virgin atlantic sticker saying  more experience than our name suggests
An old sticker from the mid 90’s

Our inbound sector (flight to London the following day) was full in Upper Class. We had a crew member working up as Cabin Service Supervisor.  Every single customer in the cabin had drinks and a full three course dinner.  Many also finished with cheese and biscuits.  As a result the service was extremely busy.  Everyone then wanted to be woken for breakfast.

On inbound night flights people often go straight to sleep after take-off and don’t want to be disturbed until landing. Especially flights that land so early in the morning.

As we were coming to the end of the flight a Delta platinum (top flying club status) customer told me Bart had woken him for breakfast, converted his seat (from flatbed to seat position) but didn’t go back to serve him.  Upon asking Bart why he had been missed out he told me he had been working from the front of the cabin, the Cabin Service Supervisor (Katrina who was working up a rank) had been working from the back.

The Cabin Service Supervisor would not normally help an aisle crew member serve breakfast. They tend to help in the galley and do other service related duties.  Katrina was helping Bart because he was so far behind his colleagues I had asked her to start from the back and work forwards to meet him.  

He didn’t appear to be very apologetic and didn’t go back and apologise personally to the customer.  Upon speaking to Katrina she told me she had only served the back three rows so hadn’t gotten anywhere near seat 8K.

I awarded the customer airmiles as an apology and said if he didn’t want breakfast now he could use the Revivals Lounge at Heathrow.

During the breakfast service the Flight Manager is required to do the service in a different cabin. I tried to keep an eye on Upper Class whenever I returned to the galley. That’s when I saw Bart was way behind Lottie and Claire and asked Katrina to help him.

When I spoke to Bart about how he did the service he told me he had first woken up every customer on his side who wanted breakfast.  He then went back to the front to start serving.  I explained that’s not how the service is done.

By doing the service in this way all of Bart’s customers were awake, sitting back in their seat waiting for breakfast.  The service takes time to deliver and he now had 16 people all waiting to be served.    

Bart is relatively new to the company and I appreciate there’s a lot to take in especially with having to work in three cabins. The best way to learn is to ask plenty of questions.  He should also work regularly in each cabin to stay familiar with the services.

The company have high expectations of cabin crew and the service we deliver.  Working in Upper Class in particular involves so much more than just taking orders, putting things down, then clearing them away.  We also need to have good product knowledge and be able to deliver an outstanding level of customer service which includes using our personalities to ensure people leave with great memories. 

Personally I didn’t find Bart particularly friendly, not towards me anyway.  He didn’t say hello when he came down to check out in Atlanta, didn’t say goodbye before leaving the aircraft at Heathrow or when getting off the car park bus.  In fact we spoke very little on both sectors despite working in close proximity to each other.

I didn’t see him spend any significant time with any one customer in the Upper Class cabin on the inbound sector other than when he was taking their order.  Part of the reason why people choose to fly with us is because of the cabin crew.

For that reason the company tries to employ people with great personalities who also have the potential to deliver outstanding service.  Bart clearly demonstrated those skills during his interview but now needs to follow them through.

When working at the front he must remember to check on the flight crew regularly (pilots) and to also go in to see them occasionally.  As well as engaging with customers (irrespective of which cabin he’s working in), he also needs to build a rapport with his colleagues and that includes the onboard managers.

Bart asked me to reset a customer’s entertainment screen for him during one of the services and said he didn’t know how to do it.  If he’s unsure how to do something he should ask to be shown, that’s how you learn.  He was shown by another crew member.

Bart comes across as confident and relaxed in his role but needs to be giving a great deal more to achieve the standard of service that’s expected of him.

When going to/returning from crew rest he should not walk through the cabin without wearing a tie because he’s in full view of customers until he enters the Crew Rest Area.

When I did my walkaround prior to landing I opened two window blinds at the back of the cabin that were obstructed by pillows.  The two windows were immediately forwards of the emergency exit.  I also removed items from several ottomans.

When crew prepare the cabin for take-off/landing window blinds must be open especially adjacent to emergency exits.  In the event of an emergency landing the crew member sitting at the exit may have to look out of the window before opening the door. If the blind is closed and obstructed by a large pillow valuable time could be wasted.

These procedures are laid down by the Civil Aviation Authority and are strictly enforced by the company. It’s mandatory the crew comply with them.

There should be no loose items on the ottomans positioned in front of the Upper Class seat.  Securing the cabin for take-off and landing is one of the first things crew learn in their training.  It’s a straightforward but important part of the job.      

I hope Bart takes on board what has been said and I’m also including a step by step guide of what needs to be done when working in Upper Class.  I hope he finds it helpful.

I feel there’s plenty of room for improvement and whilst nobody expects a relatively new crew member to learn everything in a few months, Bart should be showing a little more potential at this stage.

Bart, I am more than happy for you to contact me should you wish to discuss anything.  I did not do your performance monitoring, that was done by Katrina who worked up.  I did not discuss your performance with her.  I would have liked to have spoken with you more about your performance whilst on board but unfortunately the flights were exceptionally busy.

 I look forward to flying with you again at some point in the future.

Laurence – FSM

virgin atlantic upper class cabin
Upper Class Cabin

The cabin crew have service flows on their iPad but they’re set out in a much broader manner.  I believed by giving Bart a step-by-step guide of everything that needs to be done it would be helpful and he could print off a copy to keep in his pocket.

My role as a Flight Manager was to lead, support and develop the crew.  Bart was not familiar with the service and had struggled with many aspects of it.

Regarding Katrina doing his performance monitoring, at the end of each sector the Cabin Supervisor and Flight Manager are required to complete a short anonymous assessment on their crew.

It’s only possible to complete a review on the people you’re required to do it on.  Bart’s review would only appear on Katrina’s iPad.  On my iPad I could only do a review on the two Cabin Service Supervisors.

I was later told by the Head of Cabin Crew I should have discussed Bart’s performance with Katrina so she could mark him accordingly.  Alternatively I should have done his review on her iPad.  Bear in mind she was working up in the rank of Cabin Supervisor and had only been with the airline for a few months longer than Bart.

Throughout my nineteen years as a Flight Manager we were encouraged to occasionally complete a more detailed performance assessment.  Prior to the introduction of iPads in 2018 all assessments were completed by hand. With performance monitoring now being on an iPad it was rarely necessary to write an additional “more detailed” assessment.

On the iPad there was only space for about two short paragraphs. I had been advised if I wanted to write more the review should be done on paper.   I occasionally wrote these when I felt it was relevant but they were done in addition to the assessment on the iPad.

It didn’t cross my mind to do a written assessment on Bart for many reasons.  After arriving home and having slept, I thought back to what had happened during the flight and thought I should really document what had taken place.

Bart was still in probation and hadn’t performed to standard. I had also found him to be aloof and unfriendly but that only seemed to be towards me.

Having compensated a customer and documented the reason why, I thought if it gets back to the crew member’s manager they may look at his performance review for this flight.  I later discovered Katrina had given him 10/10 for both sectors.

Whether my line of thinking was correct or not, I decided to write a review and sent it to him and his manager.  It’s standard practice for all performance appraisals to be copied to a crew member’s manager. I also copied in my own manager.

This was the guide I wrote for Bart. The picture wasn’t included!  

Upper Class Service Guide

Pre Boarding – Ensure all Upper Class seats are reclined.  Set the bar up as soon as possible.  Get landing cards and UK landing cards/fast track vouchers for the handover. Leave them in the bar.

Hang customers’ coats (use tags), offer drinks.  Remove empty glasses as soon as possible.  Write out surnames on aisle order sheet, mark customers’ flying club status.

Replace used glasses in the bar with clean trays.  Get foil cutter, bottle opener, measuring cup, ice tongs from sundries cart and place in bar.

Once airborne unlock toilets, help set up bar.  When instructed take drinks orders four customers at a time.  Ensure you’re familiar with the wines/cocktails on the menu.  There’s a wine list on the iPad in Logipad/Documentation/Crew Experience/Wine Guide.

If you want a paper copy they’re at cabin crew check-in.

Before asking what each customer wants to drink introduce yourself.  If they haven’t flown with us before explain how the seat reclines and converts to bed.  Point out the reading light/call bell, operation of table and on the Boeing 787 how to dim the window.  If they’re a flying club member welcome them back.  Address customers by name at this point.

Deliver drinks with crisps/serviette. 

Before taking meal orders ensure you have a meal breakdown from the galley.  This is how the service should be done but it’s often not.  It ensures you don’t have to go back to someone later to say they can’t have the starter/entrée they ordered.

It’s useful to indicate how many of each starter/entrée you have with stripes ||||. As you use your allocation cross one off so you know how many you have used.

On flights where breakfast is served ensure you get a completed breakfast card before customers go to sleep.  On inbound flights remind people about the Revivals Lounge, they may prefer to go there instead of being woken for breakfast.

Revivals offers hot/cold made to order breakfast, showers and spa facilities and customers can have their clothes pressed.  It’s open until 1.30pm and may be used by all Upper Class customers and gold card holders. 

Be aware of time especially on night flights, the meal service should be delivered relatively quickly so people can maximise their rest.

During services ask if anyone has spoken to flight crew, if not call to check they’re okay and ask if they need anything.

view out the front window of the cockpit of an aircraft on approach to landing

When laying tables it’s handy if one crew member takes the table out whilst the other puts down a tablecloth.  Bread should be offered from the trolley.  If the customer doesn’t want bread remove the bread plate/butter.

When collecting in starters remove used cutlery, remove the bread plate if it’s finished with, pick up paper serviette ring.  When clearing away the main course pick up salt/pepper, offer dessert and tea/coffee.  Remember we have herbal teas/decaffeinated coffee. Refill or remove empty glasses.

Keep the clearing in station tidy, stack crockery neatly, keep cutlery separate and scrape leftover food from plates.  The trays have to go back into a cart in the galley. 

On day flights if the customer is having cheese/biscuits leave their tablecloth.  On night flights it should be served immediately.  Remember to offer port.

When removing the table cloth fold it away from the customer (towards you) to ensure nothing falls onto their lap.  Put the table back in the stowage, unfasten the seat belt on the ottoman to make the foot area more comfortable.

Between services wander around the cabin regularly.  If people are awake offer a hot/cold drink.  Start counting drinks bars as soon as possible, do wine cart handovers for return crew.

On night flights put drinks from the bar unit away after lights have gone off. Dispose of open wine if no longer being used (inbound flights).  Complete bar paperwork.  On the Boeing 787 wander through the Premium cabin as well.

Replenish/freshen toilets regularly, there are gloves and a hygiene spray behind the mirror.

For the breakfast service begin by serving customers who are already awake.  Then start waking people up but one at a time.  Wake them up, serve them breakfast then move on to the next person.

Whilst it’s fine to wake a couple at a time, don’t wake the entire cabin in one go.  Breakfast is a busy service, try not to return to the galley empty-handed, pick up items that are finished with as you go, always offer a second tea/coffee.

Once everyone has been served keep walking around to ensure nobody has been missed and that people are not left for longer than necessary with items in front of them.

Time permitting offer water/tea/coffee to anyone who wakes up after the service.

At the end of the service help clear everything away. 

Top of descent P.A made by the Y CSS indicates it’s time for you to start securing the cabin. All beds must be converted, baggage must be stowed overhead or fit into the ottoman recess, nothing on ottomans.

Top of descent P.A – announcement made just before seat belt signs go on for landing. Y CSS – Economy Cabin Service Supervisor.

People who have not flown with us in Upper Class before may bring their seat upright, tell them it’s allowed to be reclined because there’s nobody sitting behind them. Once the seat belt sign is on ask people to fasten their belts and do a final check of the cabin. Lock toilets, pass checks to CSS, take your seat.

3 thoughts on “Being Cabin Crew | The Ugly Truth Part 5

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: