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

In this chapter I’m going to share the performance review that I wrote on crooked 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

103/4 – 24/25th December 2018

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

During the pre-flight briefing whilst asking the crew as a whole questions about the aircraft type 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 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 questions 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 First Class seat operates and the associated functions. It should be 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.

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 is needed.

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 the cabin 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.

Our inbound sector (Atlanta to London the following day) was full in First Class. We had a crew member working up as Purser. 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 top flying club 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 how the customer had been missed out he told me he had been working from the front of the cabin, the Purser (Katrina) had been working from the back.

The Purser 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 compensated the customer as an apology and said if he didn’t want breakfast now he could use the airline’s Arrivals 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 First 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 and 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 this cabin 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 bus in the staff car park. 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 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 Flight Manager.

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 Purser Katrina.

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 the crew bunks 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 throughout the cabin must be open and especially either side of emergency exits.

This procedure is laid down by the Civil Aviation Authority and is strictly enforced by the company.

There should be no loose items on the ottomans positioned in front of the seat.  Securing the cabin for take-off and landing is one of the first things cabin crew learn in 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 First 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 review on the aircraft, that was completed by Katrina who worked up as Purser.  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 – Flight Manager

virgin atlantic upper class cabin
First 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 from start to finish 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 totally unfamiliar with the service and had struggled with many aspects of it.

Regarding Katrina doing his performance review, at the end of each sector the Purser 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 Pursers.

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 Purser 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 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.

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.

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