Virgin Atlantic | A Mental Health Nightmare

Behind the Scenes at Virgin Atlantic

Having been bullied out of a job that I loved after 30 years, I felt it was really important to share my story. Although it took the best part of two years before I felt able to start writing what took place, the blog has finally been published. As of today there are two chapters but more will follow. I want to take this opportunity to give you a brief overview as to what “30 Years at Virgin Atlantic | The Ugly Truth” is about.

Having joined Virgin Atlantic in 1990 as cabin crew it was my dream job. For someone who loved to travel, took a keen interest in delivering exceptional standards of customer service and who enjoyed working as part of a team, I was absolutely in my element. The salary was dire to say the least but being happy in my career was once more important than earning a good salary.

In 2003 I transferred to a part time contract due to matters I was dealing with at home but went back full time in 2008. Sadly in 2010 my contract changed again to part time after I suddenly lost my mum. Overnight I became a full time carer for my dad who moved in with me so there was no way I could continue flying full time. The nine years that followed were extremely difficult for many reasons and I spent more time than you can imagine struggling with my mental health.

My immediate manager at Virgin Atlantic was extremely supportive and during a period of long term sickness in 2016 which lasted for eighteen months, he stayed in regular contact with me. I firmly believe it was only because of him that I returned to work in March 2018. Just nine months later I was dealing with a grievance that had been taken out against me for bullying, harassment and inappropriate touching. Raised by a crew member still in his probation period, it was a malicious and deceitful complaint whose purpose was revenge.

Having had to speak with him on multiple occasions during both sectors of our flight about the standard of his performance, I felt it was necessary to write a constructive performance review to highlight areas for improvement. During the flight I spoke to him about several of the points that were subsequently documented. Coaching, developing and writing performance reviews was part of my job as a Flight Service Manager.

Having submitted his complaint this ex serving police officer of eight years advised his manager he wanted the matter to be dealt with as a grievance and refused to go through mediation. According to Virgin Atlantic policy manuals, mediation should always be the first step.

What followed over the next eighteen months was horrific. Nothing that I said to the company was believed and they preferred instead to believe the version of events told by the complainant, his (now ex) fiancee who was working as cabin crew on the flight and four other crew members with whom they colluded. Four of the six employees had been in the company for less than twelve months.

It’s important to emphasise that I proved unequivocally that all six were lying. As part of my evidence I used witness statements that had been requested by the company from the entire crew three of which told a very different story to that of these devious six, minutes from meetings that had taken place with the complainant and policies taken from company manuals. Nothing that I said in my defence was believed and my judgement and experience as a Flight Manager who had been in rank for 19 years was continually doubted. As a result of having to deal with this matter I had several lengthy periods off work.

Having upheld four out of the twenty complaints made against me including bullying and harassment and inappropriate touching, I submitted an appeal. Before the outcome of that investigation was received, the senior manager who was dealing with it brought a second disciplinary against me. This was for something that had taken place a few weeks earlier that was nothing more than a misunderstanding. Despite having apologised and explained the matter fully to show that it really was a misunderstanding, it didn’t make the slightest difference.

This senior manager was fully aware of how much I had struggled over the last eighteen months and also knew what I had been dealing with in my personal life for the last nine years. When we met I had even asked her whether she knew how men of my age commit suicide each year as a result of depression. Despite having this information she still felt it appropriate to pursue a second grievance which I was advised if upheld, would lead to a second final written warning. In other words, they could terminate my employment.

One of the main areas of responsibility of this senior manager was improving crew performance and productivity. With my sickness record not having been great over the previous eighteen months as a result of dealing with the first grievance, I was no longer deemed to be useful to the company. Everything that I had been struggling to understand in relation to fighting this disciplinary matter now fell into place. They wanted me out and no amount of evidence would have made any difference.

30 Years at Virgin Atlantic | The Ugly Truth is a shocking and compelling story. Since being published I have received hundreds of messages from other Virgin Atlantic crew who have been through similar experiences at the hands of the cabin crew management team. This repugnant behaviour that can only be described as bullying and harassment of the worst kind has been going on for many, many years.

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