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30 Years at Virgin Atlantic | The Ugly Truth


Table of Contents

 

Page 1 – Introduction
Page 1 – A Christmas to Remember
Page 2 – Good Bad and the Useless 
Page 2 – Dealing with a Spurious Grievance 
Page 2 – Grievance Meeting Whilst Off Sick 
Page 3 – The Most Loved Travel Company
Page 4 – Laurence Vs Goliath
The Ugly Truth Part 2

 


Introduction

Having spent most of my working life as cabin crew for Virgin Atlantic I was made redundant in 2020 following the outbreak of Covid-19. I was on long term sick at the time but knew when redundancies were announced my cards were marked.

During my 30 years with Virgin Atlantic I never had a black mark against my name, had always worked hard and was passionate about delivering exceptional standards of customer service.

In later years as an on-board manager I worked closely with my crew to gain trust and respect, ensured procedures were followed and always tried to create a happy working environment.

One aspect of my role as a Flight Service Manager I particularly enjoyed was coaching and developing. During my twenty five years as an on-board manager I wrote and delivered hundreds of performance reviews.

In 2003 a couple of years after being promoted to Flight Service Manager (FSM) my partner at the time became gravely ill. I suddenly found myself faced with some very difficult decisions.

It was no longer possible for me to fly full time and part time was only really available to female crew returning from maternity leave. Having told my manager I was considering leaving he fought hard and managed to get me part time.

Despite the turmoil of the next five years I remained loyal and committed to Virgin Atlantic and put my heart and soul into my role.

In performance reviews written on me by colleagues throughout my time as a Cabin Service Supervisor (previously known as Purser) and subsequently as Flight Service Manager, I was described as professional, approachable and hard working.

I have always taken a keen interest in my development and spoke regularly to my manager about my performance. We had a good relationship, were open and honest with each other and he repeatedly told me I was a high performing member of his team.

I’m someone who wears my heart on my sleeve and have always been thoughtful, kind and considerate. As a Flight Service Manager I understood the importance of rewarding outstanding performance but felt it was also important to highlight areas where there was room for improvement. This is something Virgin Atlantic always encouraged.

For Christmas 2018 I was rostered a flight to Seattle with a long layover. I didn’t want to be away for so many days because my dad who was 96 had recently become very frail. I knew he was in the last stages of his life so swapped with a colleague for a shorter trip to Atlanta. It was a decision I would live to regret.

What happened in the weeks and months that followed defies belief.

Although extremely disappointing, being made redundant wasn’t a major issue for me because after thirty years of flying, it was time for me to move on. What had taken place since my Atlanta had exposed a side of Virgin Atlantic I didn’t know existed.

I had considered leaving many times over the years but loved my job, believed I did it well and was never quite ready or brave enough to call it a day.

It’s been almost three years since that ill-fated flight and only now do I feel able to share my story.


Virgin Atlantic Boeing 747 flying in a pure blue sky
Virgin Atlantic Boeing 747


A Christmas to Remember

During a flight to Cape Town not too many years ago, I was asked to speak with a customer sitting in the front row of the Premium cabin.

Premium with Virgin Atlantic is superior to Economy but not quite Upper Class.

Since take-off she had been asking to be upgraded because her husband couldn’t get comfortable. I had seen him board using a walking stick and he clearly had a spinal issue which prevented him from being able to stand up straight.

After introducing myself she told me she wanted to be upgraded so her husband could use the Upper Class bed.  Having explained I didn’t have the authority to upgrade customers, she argued they had been upgraded many times before on Virgin Atlantic by the flight manager. She told me as a gold club flying member they were entitled to be upgraded.

I explained that wasn’t company policy and although we do everything possible to look after our gold club customers, we weren’t authorised to do upgrades. She demanded to speak to the captain but I explained that wasn’t possible.

She went on to say they had flown out to Cape Town in Upper Class but were disappointed with the seat so changed their return flight to Premium.  It was the first time they had travelled in this cabin and found the seat to be extremely uncomfortable.

She continued arguing with me and was becoming louder and louder. She then said I had no idea what it was like to live with someone who was disabled. The comment came out of the blue and I felt embarrassed for her husband who was sitting next to her reading the newspaper.

I empathised and said I really did understand how difficult it was because I had been a carer myself for many years for my partner to which she replied, “he probably had AIDS”.

During my thirty years at Virgin Atlantic I encountered my fair share of rude and unpleasant people but this affluent and well-spoken woman was the most vile of them all.

Her comment was particularly hurtful because she was right, my ex partner did have AIDS and those years were some of the most difficult and traumatic of my life.


Flying as cabin crew is a job unlike any other. During my thirty years at Virgin Atlantic I met some amazing people and had some truly incredible experiences.

I always felt proud to be in uniform and did everything possible to ensure every customer had the best possible experience.  I can hardly remember a day when I didn’t feel excited about going to work.


A group of Virgin Atlantic cabin crew in a hotel lobby
Vancouver 2012 (taken with an old iphone)


I was often asked by friends and family how long I intended to keep flying.  It was a strange question because it was my job and one that I loved yet it was not looked upon as being a great career.

Most people look at cabin crew as being a job you do for a few years before finding a ‘proper job’. I think that’s because it’s not well paid and is a busy and tiring lifestyle.

I had always planned on hanging up my wings at 55 but in 2016 a year before my 50th birthday was on long term sick. I never believed I’d fly again.

Incredibly I did manage to return to work in March 2018. Although I was no longer the person I once was, I loved being back doing the job I loved.

Flying was an escape from reality which enabled me to block out what I was dealing with at home. I worked hard, tried to lead by example and was more than happy to do the jobs on-board that most cabin crew hated.

I have always loved to make people laugh so creating a fun and relaxed atmosphere on all of my flights was something I strongly believed in.


On 24th December 2018 I operated the flight to Atlanta that I’d swapped on to. It was a flight that would change my life.

What took place over the next eighteen months was shocking and extremely difficult to comprehend. Almost three years later and I’m still struggling to come to terms with what happened.  

On that day I checked in with five of the most vile and despicable people I have ever had the misfortune to encounter.

My alleged conduct during the flight and whilst in Atlanta led to a complaint for bullying, harassment and inappropriate touching from a crew member still in his probation.

Prior to joining Virgin Atlantic he had been a serving police officer for eight years. He was on the flight with his now ex fiancée although I was unaware of their relationship. She was also ex police although I don’t believe she was a police officer.

Considering the seriousness of his allegations, he said nothing to anyone at anytime during the trip. Even after returning home he didn’t speak to his manager.

I had found him to be aloof and unfriendly from the second we met which is very unusual for Virgin Atlantic cabin crew. I initially put it down to shyness but it was some time before I discovered the real reason for his behaviour.

Before the flight I allocated him a working position in the Upper Class cabin. When asked during the pre-flight briefing whether he had worked there before, he told me he had done so many times.

What I witnessed on both sectors showed otherwise and it was necessary for me to speak with him on several occasions about the way he delivered the service.

Having been with Virgin Atlantic for less than twelve months he was still in his probation. I therefore felt it was important to write a performance assessment on him.

Having received it he responded with accusations of bullying and harassment. He also accused me of inappropriate touching not only towards him but towards several members of the crew.

He made twenty two separate complaints about my performance, ability and conduct.

Despite proving unequivocally this ex police officer, his fiancée and four other cabin crew with whom they colluded were lying, Virgin Atlantic upheld the grievance against me.

Almost nothing of what I said in my defence was believed. As a result of the huge amount of evidence I submitted, the company struggled to uphold many of the allegations but managed to uphold three.

Crew member Bart (not his real name) is a devious and malicious individual whose eight years as a police officer enabled him to put together a very convincing complaint.

As someone with an impressive memory which his fiancée Anna (not her real name) confirmed in her witness statement, Bart used facts from situations that took place and manipulated them. This made the allegations extremely difficult for me to defend.

The following screenshot is from her witness statement. She was working at the opposite end of an A340-600 which is a very long aircraft. She only came to the front where Bart and I were working on one occasion and was there for just a few minutes.


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From the witness statement submitted by Anna, Bart’s fiance. “Workplace” by Facebook is Virgin Atlantic’s communications platform.


Three other cabin crew one being Anna also accused me of inappropriate touching. Her witness statement and the one written by crew member VEN (not his real name) are so vile, poisonous and full of hatred they were incredibly difficult for me to read.

All five witness statements submitted by those who supported Bart’s complaint were full of lies and inaccuracies. It was clear to see collusion had taken place.

The remaining three statements written by the cabin crew who worked alongside Bart and myself in the Upper Class cabin were honest and told a very different story.

Despite providing endless amounts of evidence to prove all six individuals were lying, Virgin Atlantic would not believe my version of events. They instead believed two employees who were engaged to be married and four of their friends.

Four out of the six had been with Virgin Atlantic for less than twelve months. The fifth was on his first operating fight back after having been on a secondment for a year. He had also just been turned down for promotion.

The remaining crew member who was VEN had been in the company for four years. He had been called for the flight from standby because we needed an additional crew member.

The following screenshot comes from his witness statement. He’s talking about cabin crew member Bart;


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From the witness statement of crew member Ven


Along with Bart and myself there were four other cabin crew working in the Upper Class cabin. Lottie was the longest serving member of crew after me. She had been with Virgin Atlantic for eight years. Katrina and Claire had been with the company for just over a year but had both flown previously. Bruce was the second longest serving member of crew. All names throughout my blog are pseudonyms.

Katrina and Claire were best friends who had been at another airline for thirty years. They had both been On-Board Managers for twenty years before being made redundant.

Little notice was taken of witness statements submitted by Lottie, Katrina and Claire. Bruce failed to return his statement.

Bart’s complaint was submitted three weeks after the flight yet it was almost four months before the company asked the rest of the crew for a witness statement.

They were each asked to respond to approximately 30 questions about my performance, ability and conduct. The questions were based on the allegations made by Bart.

One question was “Please share any observations you have about Laurence and his physical touching towards either yourself or any of the cabin crew throughout the flight.”

I found it incredibly humiliating that such a question was even being asked. Out of eleven questionnaires (which included the captain and first officer) nine were returned.

As part of my attempt to defend myself from these vile allegations, I asked a doctor of clinical psychology to write to the grievance hearing manager regarding the accusations of inappropriate touching. I had been seeing him for some time because of issues with my mental health.

During our sessions we had spoken about something I have struggled with for my entire adult life. I believe it stems from an extremely abusive relationship I was in when I was 18. I find touching anyone in an affectionate manner incredibly difficult.

It’s something I have never spoken openly about yet was now sharing this intensely personal information with Virgin Atlantic for the purpose of clearing my name.

The first screenshot below is from Bart’s complaint. The second is from the outcome of the appeal heard by senior manager xx;


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From the complaint submitted by crew member Bart

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Outcome of appeal carried out by senior manager xx

I had proven unequivocally in my evidence the three crew members who accused me of inappropriate touching had lied throughout their statements.

The crew who worked alongside Bart and I in Upper Class stated they were not aware of any inappropriate touching. In fact out of eleven witness statements, only one crew member claimed she had seen me touch another inappropriately. That was Bart’s fiancee Anna who was working at the opposite end of the aircraft.

Nobody else saw me touch anyone inappropriately at any time.

The following comes from the witness statement of Anna. For point of reference, I’m five foot seven;


From the witness statement of Bart’s fiancee Anna

The doctor I was seeing is a Consultant Clinical and Counselling Psychologist and an Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society. He is a registered Applied Practitioner Psychologist with the Health and Care Professions Council. He’s been in practice for more than thirty years and has the following letters after his name; BA (Hons), MSc Med Psych, DClinPsych, CPsychol, AFBPsS.

Senior manager xx joined Virgin Atlantic in 2006 as Manager Cabin Services. She moved into her current role as Senior Manager People and Performance in 2016. The incident took place in 2018. According to her LinkedIn profile she has nine ‘O’ levels including English and Maths and an ‘A’ level in English literature. She was also made redundant in response to Covid-19.

To put the incident regarding “tickling a crew member’s leg” into perspective, I touched Ven’s ankle for a split second whilst playing a joke on him. It was witnessed by two of my colleagues both of whom worked alongside me in Upper Class. The word “tickled” was used by Ven in his witness statement.

The following comes from Lottie’s witness statement. She was present when the incident took place;

“Towards the end of the flight Laurence was in very high spirits and was laughing and joking with the crew.”

Although crew member Bart was not present, I believe this incident is what led to him coming up with the story of inappropriate touching. Having been told by Ven at some point after the flight what had taken place, it was a perfect opportunity to add inappropriate touching to his complaint.

Ven also accused me of squeezing his waist yet in his witness statement says he did not see me touch anyone else inappropriately.

Crew member Mia accused me of touching her leg. She also states she did not see me touch anyone else at any time.


In May 2020 when redundancies were announced at Virgin Atlantic in response to Covid-19, I was told my job was at risk. I was on long term sick once again as a result of dealing with this grievance. I had been off since December 2019.

I was made redundant a couple of months later and subsequently received my P45 in the post. When the envelope arrived it was the only piece of paper in the envelope and there was nothing attached to it.

It had been several months since I had spoken with my (new) manager. The last email I had received which was from someone I didn’t know, was to invite me to appeal the decision to make me redundant.  I declined the offer.

That was how my thirty year career at Virgin Atlantic came to an end.


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In March 2018 I returned to work after having been off for almost two years struggling with anxiety and depression. Nine months later I was dealing with a complaint from crew member Bart who was aggrieved at having received a constructive performance review following our flight together.

In the months that followed I put together more than 600 pages of factual evidence to prove the allegations were lies. The cabin crew management team however at Virgin Atlantic refused to believe anything that I said. It would take me almost three years to understand the reason why.


30 Years at Virgin Atlantic | The Ugly Truth – Part 3


Table of Contents

 

The Ugly Truth Part 2
Page 1 – The Importance of Evidence
Page 2 – Hideous Bunch of Misfits 
Page 3 – Writing Reviews Post Flight 
Page 4 – Another Incompetent Manager
The Ugly Truth Part 4 (TBA)

 


The Importance of Evidence

The publication of my blog 30 Years at Virgin Atlantic the Ugly Truth was first announced on a Facebook group widely used by Virgin Atlantic cabin crew past and present.

It attracted a huge amount of interest and the moderators didn’t feel it was appropropriate for the nature of the page which I completely understood.

Shortly before being removed, crew member Peter who was on my Christmas flight to Atlanta in 2018 posted a comment. It wasn’t there for long but I don’t know whether he deleted it or if it was removed by the moderators. I responded but the entire thread disappeared soon afterwards.

At the time of our flight Peter had been cabin crew with Virgin Atlantic for just six months. He was upset at what I’d written and said “a man is doing a blog about being bullied and attacked whilst attacking and bullying people who were only asked to do a witness statement. The situation was nothing to do with me yet he felt the need to slander my name. Things that have been written about me that are hurtful and upsetting and I was only being honest and truthful.”

In this chapter I’m going to share sections from his witness statement as well as sections from those written by other members of the crew.

Links throughout the blog enable you to refer back to certain pieces of information. They’ll always open in a new tab. You may need to scroll up or down slightly to see the relevant text, photo or screenshot.


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From crew member Peter’s witness statement

The crew member Peter is referring to is his best friend Mia. In her witness statement she accused me of touching her leg. Mia is also good friends with crew member T who worked up as Cabin Service Supervisor. All three along with Anna worked side by side in the Economy cabin.

Considering Mia “mentioned” to Peter that I had been “quite physical on a few occasions”, you would have thought she would have also said something to T.

The following screenshot comes from Mia’s witness statement;


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From Mia’s witness statement

This is from T’s witness statement;


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From the witness statement of T

Regarding Mia saying she didn’t find me particularly approachable, she was friendly enough when I worked with her on the outbound sector to do a drinks service. She was also very chatty when she sat across from me at breakfast on Christmas morning in the hotel.

On our return flight to London Heathrow, once the dinner service in Economy was finished I asked T to send someone to the front to help us in Upper Class. It was very busy and the service wasn’t running smoothly.

He arrived a short while later along with Mia and Anna. With there already being seven of us working from the front galley including Ven who was looking after the Premium cabin, I didn’t need three additional crew.

I asked Anna to go back to Economy, Mia to help Bart on the right aisle because he was struggling to keep up and T to clear away service items customers had finished with.

Despite so many of us working together in a small area, according to witness statements nobody saw me or was aware of me touching Mia’s leg. She says in her statement she thought I may have dropped something or was having a laugh yet then says “I don’t wish for this to be taken further”. I’m old enough to be her father.

I believe Mia was coerced into making this statement probably by Anna who is a disgusting and devious individual.

Considering Mia didn’t find me approachable, during a very busy meal service in Upper Class she came to speak with me to draw my attention to the portion size of the Christmas dinner.

I took a photo of the meals she was holding so I could send it to the catering department. Here she is.

Mia was in Upper Class helping Bart out on his aisle for about forty five minutes. So her and Bart worked in close proximity during that time. I was also busy helping in the cabin. Here’s another screenshot from Mia’s witness statement.


from Mia’s witness statement

She’s right I was stressed because the service wasn’t flowing and the galley was chaos. I had Bart on one aisle who was struggling to keep up and a crew member in the galley who was plating food like it was school dinners. This was unlike any flight I had ever done before.

Whilst all this was going on Mia claims I touched her leg and thought I had “dropped something or was having a laugh.”

Remember T was also in the cabin yet was unaware of any inappropriate touching.

The following photo is the Upper Class cabin on the Virgin Atlantic aircraft we were flying on. You can also see see the width of the right aisle that five of us were working in during the service. Those people were Bart, Mia, myself, T and Claire.

Bart and Mia were serving customers in the seats by the window, Claire was serving the centre seats. T and I were helping out in both aisles. By this time Katrina had moved into the galley to help plate up food.

Towards the end of the service once Ven had finished in Premium he also helped in the cabin.


Upper Class Cabin

At the back of the cabin is the bar area which is also a tight space. The galley which I don’t have a photo of is also very narrow. The galley wall can just about be seen in this photo. I’ve included it to show how narrow the walkway is behind the bar stools.

This is where I was on my hands and knees sweeping the carpet prior to landing when I touched Ven’s ankle as a joke to give him a fright. He was sat on a bar stool talking to another member of crew who was sat next to him.



In Bart’s witness statement he says “Laurence constantly touched me and other crew members on or below the hips. Excessive and unwanted touching especially by a manager who has not created good rapport was not welcomed and was commented on by many members of the crew.”

In Anna’s statement she said “I witnessed FSM Laurence touch crew member Bart below the hips while negotiating a tight work place (I think she means workspace). Crew member Bart looked uncomfortable with FSM Laurence’s hand placement as his posture straightened and he looked surprised. FSM Laurence also touched me below the hips and it made me uncomfortable.”

Having arrived at the front of the aircraft with T and Amy, Anna was only present for a couple of minutes before being asked to return to Economy.

Note the similarities of how I allegedly touched these people. Ven states I squeezed his waist, Bart states I constantly touched him and other crew members on or below the hips. Anna claims she witnessed me touching Bart below the hips and also touched her in the same way. Mia claims I touched her leg.

Yet with seven people working in this tight working space, nobody was aware of any inappropriate touching. Anyone who has ever worked as cabin crew will know you continuously have to squeeze past colleagues or physically move them out of the way to get by.

In fact we often joked about the galley at the front being the “sorry galley” because you’re always saying sorry.

The very nature of this working environment makes working alongside malevolent and devious individuals like Bart and Anna very very dangerous.

Both have used this to their advantage and tried to muster support from other members of the crew. Although they gained support from Ven, Mia and Peter for some aspects of the complaint, these three dimwits were not able to confirm in their witness statement they saw me touch anyone inappropriately at any time. Lottie, Katrina, Claire, the First Officer and Captain of the aircraft were also completely unaware of any inappropriate touching.

Despite eight out of ten crew members confirming they didn’t see me touch anyone inappropriately or were even aware any such behaviour had taken place, this allegation was upheld by senior manager xx.

Two crew failed to return their witness statement. One was Bruce who worked the Upper Class galley, the other a female crew member in Economy.

As I’ve mentioned previously in my blog, I even supplied a letter from a doctor of clinical psychology who stated it’s “unlikely” I would have touched anyone inappropriately.

What makes this whole nasty situation even more damning is that Bart was a serving police officer for eight years. Anna also came from a police background.

With regards to Ven’s allegation of me squeezing his waist, take a moment to think about that. How exactly do you squeeze someone’s waist?


Look at the position of Peter’s arm, he’s behind me on the right. Is he squeezing Ven’s waist?

I look really tired in that photo. I had just spoken to my dad who was extremely poorly. I knew he was in the last days of his life. He passed away just over a week later.

He had lived with me since my mum died in 2010 and I had been his carer for eight years. He was now living in a lovely care home but it had been a long and difficult fight to get him a place there. I’ll explain why and talk about that in more detail in the next chapter of my blog.

Little did I know when leaving Atlanta on this Christmas afternoon in 2018 with this bunch of seemingly happy people that my life was about to be thrown into complete and utter chaos.


In Ven’s witness statement he says when he arrived for our flight to Atlanta after being called on standby he didn’t know anyone. Less than 24 hours later him and Peter are extremely good friends. Whilst that’s not at all unusual for Virgin Atlantic cabin crew, I have a good reason for mentioning it and am not just being spiteful.

In his comment on Facebook regarding my blog Peter said, “I would never lie maliciously to hurt someone.”

The following comes from his witness statement;

“Laurence spent a lot of time in the flight deck”.

Were this to be true which it’s not, it would have been extremely damaging. My role on the aircraft was to be in the cabin and not spending long periods of time in the flight deck. By making this statement Peter knew exactly what he was doing.

The comment can only refer to the inbound sector because the outbound flight was half empty and very quiet. He’s clearly trying to accuse me of skiving.

Peter didn’t come to the front once on either the outbound or inbound sector. He states several times in his witness statement that we saw very little of each other on the aircraft. Therefore he can’t possibly know what I did with my time.

The only other person who made a comment about my availability or apparent lack of it, was Ven. He was working in the Premium cabin which is at the front. Peter was in Economy based out of the galley at the back. We were on an Airbus A340-600 aircraft which is a very long aircraft.

Not even Bart and Anna made any reference to me spending excessive amount of time away from the cabin.

This comes from Ven’s witness statement;


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From Ven’s witness statement


It seems very clear to me why Peter wrote what he did in his statement. So much for not lying maliciously to hurt someone. Ironically this comes from his social media page;



As you’ll see as I talk more about what he wrote in his witness statement, he doesn’t have a clue about being kind or mental health.


Ven worked position CM7 (CM = Crew Member) which looks after the Premium cabin. He works out of the front galley alongside the Upper Class crew.

I asked him on the inbound flight once he finished his service to help us in Upper Class. That’s the very reason why I allocated him that position. Crew member Katrina was the Upper Class CSS (Cabin Service Supervisor) so I don’t understand why Ven believes he was doing that position.

According to Ven’s witness statement, on our inbound flight as well as working in a full Premium cabin looking after thirty eight people, he not only worked in Upper Class as well but actually ran the service. That’s what the Cabin Service Supervisor does. In addition to that he also did some aspects of my role which was cabin manager. That’s really odd considering on our outbound flight I worked with him on the other end of an afternoon tea cart and on the inbound flight I did breakfast with him in the opposite aisle.

Anyone who has ever flown as cabin crew for Virgin Atlantic will roll on the floor laughing at his ridiculous claim. His rank is Cabin Crew which is exactly the same as the other eleven crew members on this flight. Furthermore, he wasn’t even the most senior member of crew.

He had however been invited to the “Incredibles” event so clearly that’s gone to his head. The truth of the matter is Ven is an arrogant and deluded buffoon.

Maybe he thinks he worked the Upper Class CSS position because I asked him to show Katrina how to do the Upper Class drinks paperwork. As FSM it’s not possible to do everything so you have to delegate and ask your team to help out.

Regarding Ven’s comment about making a seat belt sign P.A, each time I read that it makes me laugh. Let me put the situation into perspective. The onboard managers make all PA’s and always have done. They can if they wish delegate them to one of their crew. This is usually done so they can gain experience making announcements.

During the flight the seat belt sign announcement is made by one of the Cabin Service Supervisors, usually the one in Economy. It’s mandatory that at least one announcement be made so if not done within a few minutes, the other CSS or FSM will do it.

With there being three onboard managers on our flight even though two were working up, Ven claims he made the announcement because “due to lack of experience it wasn’t made.”

When the seatbelt signs were illuminated, T who worked up as Cabin Service Supervisor in Economy made the announcement just like he made all other announcements he was required to make.

Each time the signs are illuminated a mandatory safety routine kicks in. The crew check all customers have their seatbelt fastened, they then pass their checks to the CSS. The CSS then confirms the cabin is secure to the FSM who advises the captain.


Ven also stated I didn’t make a welcome announcement after take off. Ironically in Bart’s grievance he included a complaint about my after take off welcome announcement. For this reason one of the questions the cabin crew were asked was;

“Please share any observations on FSM Laurence’s PA’s.”

Considering Ven believes he was working the Upper Class CSS position and parts of the FSM position as well, I’m surprised he didn’t make the after take-off P.A. Afterall, in his deluded mind he believes he went over the head of all three on-board managers and made a seat-belt sign announcement because it wasn’t made.

Had he done that which he didn’t, I would have addressed the matter with him in the same way that I addressed service related issues with Bart.

Safety procedures on-board must always be adhered to and cannot be changed. Part of the FSM’s role is to ensure procedures are followed.

Nobody else commented in their witness statement about me not making the necessary announcements or Ven having to make an announcement. Had this actually happened I’m certain it would have been mentioned by Bart or Anna.

Bart speaks at length about my after take-off P.A in his complaint as does Anna.

Peter states his travelling companion thought my P.A’s “were really long and didn’t need to be”.


Ven cites lack of experience as being the reason why the seat-belt announcement wasn’t made. He also said I should have taken charge but didn’t. Let’s have a look at the experience in the Upper Class cabin on this flight.

I had been with Virgin Atlantic for 30 years 22 of which were spent as an onboard manager (first CSS then FSM). Crew members Katrina and Claire had both flown previously for another airline for 30 years, 20 of which were as Flight Managers. Lottie was the most experienced crew member on the flight, she had been with Virgin Atlantic for about 8 years.

The most junior crew member in the Upper Class cabin was Bart who had been with Virgin Atlantic for eleven months. According to minutes taken during his meeting with the crew manager investigating his grievance, he complained he wasn’t given the opportunity to work up as CSS.

As you’ll see from the performance review I wrote on him which will be published in full in due course, he wasn’t able to do his own job properly let alone run the entire service in the cabin.

In fact I awarded one customer airmiles as compensation because Bart had woken him up for breakfast but then never went back to him. The customer was completely missed out during the breakfast service. He subsequently complained to me about the service mentioning Bart specifically.

I spoke to Bart there and then in the presence of CSS Katrina. I also explained to him how the breakfast service should be done in Upper Class. The form completed for Customer Relations in regards to me giving the customer airmiles explained exactly what had taken place.

In his complaint, Bart told more lies about why the customer was missed out.


finger about to touch a button on a keyboard which says lies


The following screenshot comes from evidence submitted as part of my defence. It’s regarding the buffet dinner arranged by Virgin Atlantic for us on Christmas Eve, the day we arrived at the hotel.

Three tables had been set up. Bart, Anna, T, Peter, Mia and their two companions sat at one table along with another two crew members from our flight. I sat on a separate table with the captain, first officer, Lottie, Katrina and Claire. The third table was occupied by the Manchester crew.

The cabin crew member who I was asked to speak to by the captain was Peter.


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From evidence I submitted to the company


Despite having seen so little of me during both flights and the entire trip according to his witness statement, Peter says “he (Laurence) came across professional towards customers but to crew I feel he came across unapproachable and not so professional, his attitude made me feel awkward around him”.

On our outbound flight whilst half the crew were on their break, I went to the back of the aircraft to see how things were going. Peter was in the galley alone and we spoke for about ten minutes. He told me he was best friends with Mia, that she had persuaded him to apply to Virgin Atlantic as cabin crew and that he also worked in a gym.

Making conversation wasn’t easy which I put down to the thirty year age gap and him still being quite new. I made my excuses and returned to the front. That was the only time we really spoke or spent any time together.

In response to another question he says “I don’t feel he took his time to engage with his crew”. In another, “If I’m honest I didn’t find Laurence approachable in the slightest, mostly because of his briefing and he didn’t take much time to engage with myself.”

Here’s his answer to another question;

“Please share any other information you feel may be relevant to the performance and behaviour of Laurence and crew member Bart on this duty.”

“He (Laurence) also sent an email to all the crew regarding the flight and Voice of Customer which was very unnecessary and long” (just like my announcements then!).

Bearing in mind he’d only been with Virgin Atlantic as cabin crew for six months and had never flown previously, his comment speaks volumes about how interested he is in his performance and development.

The email he’s referring to was only sent to the four crew working in Economy plus crew member T.

Although I occasionally wrote performance assessments from home after a flight, I had never contacted a group of crew in this way. I did so on this occasion because I was disappointed to see a customer on our inbound flight had marked them “Good” on their Voice of Customer questionnaire. They also said “the stewardess was professional but not engaging”.

In my pre flight briefings I always the crew to engage with customers whilst serving them. As you’ll see in due course, this was something I also addressed in Bart’s performance review.

The following two screenshots come from my Pre Flight Briefing. These sections come from evidence submitted to the company;


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The company had been putting huge pressure on onboard managers to achieve high Voice of Customer scores so being marked “Excellent” was really important. Anything less pulled our scores down.

With the outbreak of Covid-19 those scores were used to decide who would be made redundant and who would be offered a place in the holding pool.

The holding pool was set up with help from the union so when the business picked up, crew who had been made redundant could be re-employed.

I had always taken a keen interest in my performance and was concerned that my scores had dropped slightly in the previous month. Even though I was still above average, I wanted to get them up as quickly as possible.

The way customers mark the cabin crew directly affects the FSM’s scores. During the inbound flight briefing scores from the outbound sector are shared with the crew. I therefore felt there was no reason why I shouldn’t share scores with them from our inbound sector. The cabin crew do not have access to them directly.

My main reason for doing this was because three out of the four crew who had worked in Economy had been with Virgin Atlantic for less than twelve months. Crew member T who had recently been unsuccessful for his promotion also worked up as Cabin Service Supervisor.

I was initially only going to email him but then decided to include the rest of the Economy crew as well. I also copied in each of their managers plus my own. Only one manager replied.


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Email from a Cabin Crew Manager (MPD = Manager Performance and Development)

Have a guess who the only crew member was to reply. The same person who I said shone brightly and had the potential to go far in the company.

It was Mia, the same Mia who accused me of touching her leg and didn’t find me to be particularly approachable. In her reply she said;

“Thank you, I hope you enjoyed your days off”

Crew member T who worked up didn’t reply either. As you’ll see lower down, I even said in the email “T did an outstanding job working up as CSS”.


As I share more excerpts from Peter’s witness statement you’ll see how his tone changes completely when he speaks about Bart. They worked at opposite ends of the aircraft and Bart spent little to no time in Economy.

You’ll be surprised how much Peter knew about his performance and how highly he spoke of him.

Anna who had been with Virgin Atlantic for less than eleven months complained about my email to a crew manager whilst checking in for her next flight. Although she says she spoke with manager Julie on the 27th, it was in fact the 28th.

Julie’s response was to say she “felt it [the email] sounded positive, constructive and in line with my role as an OBM” (onboard manager).


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From crew member Anna’s Witness Statement.

Mia was the crew member who complained to manager Julie with Anna.

The only thing Anna and Mia complained about was the email they received on their days off. Julie told me that had anything been mentioned about inappropriate touching, a full investigation would have been launched immediately.

The emails she refers to were not included in the investigation paperwork I received so I don’t know the content.

I have recently submitted a Subject Access Request to Virgin Atlantic. In accordance with British law they must share all information they hold in my personnel file. I have requested everything from December 2018 to the time I was made redundant.


The following screenshot comes from evidence I submitted to the company. ;


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From evidence submitted as part of my defence


The next screenshot comes from Lottie’s witness statement. She worked alongside me in Upper Class. Her statement was honest and accurate.


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Lottie’s witness statement

From what she has written you can imagine what Anna and Mia said about the content of the email. Her comment about me laughing and joking with the crew is a reference to me touching Ven’s ankle whilst on the floor behind him sweeping the carpet. The only crew members present at the time were Lottie and Katrina.

I want to end this page by sharing the email I sent to the crew with you.

I know it’s longer than necessary but at the time of writing I wasn’t in a great place. Losing myself in something work related was an enjoyable distraction.

VoC is the Voice of Customer programme. These are questionnaires sent to customers after their flight.


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Email sent to Economy cabin crew following our flight together to Atlanta

30 Years at Virgin Atlantic | The Ugly Truth – Part 2


Table of Contents

 

The Ugly Truth – Part 1
Page 1 – Thank You! 
Page 2 – Monitoring Crew Performance 
Page 2 – High Performing Onboard Manager 
Page 2 – Open to Suggestions and Ideas 
Page 2 – Onboard Performance 
Page 3 – The Good Old Days 
Page 3 – In the Beginning
Page 4 – Back to the Good Old Days
Page 4 – Crew Life Downroute
Page 4 – Pre-Flight Briefings
The Ugly Truth – Part 3

 


Thank You from the Bottom of my Heart

The response to the first part of my blog 30 Years at Virgin Atlantic the Ugly Truth has been truly overwhelming. In just a few hours it received more than 6000 views and messages of support poured in on the Facebook page where its publication was announced. I have read every comment and am blown away by all the love and kindness.

Regarding the allegations of bullying, harassment and inappropriate touching made by crew member Bart, none of the cabin crew managers or senior manager who dealt with the case showed any interest in investigating whether this ex police officer of eight years was telling the truth.

I’d read all email correspondence that was exchanged between him and the company which included detailed minutes of a meeting that took place between him and grievance investigation manager Lana. At no time was he advised verbally or in writing that should it be discovered he has made false or baseless claims, he could face disciplinary action up to and including dismissal.

The following screenshot comes from minutes taken during Bart’s meeting with the crew manager who carried out the initial investigation. Regarding him not being happy with the way his ‘Performance Management’ was delivered to his manager, I sent her a copy of what I wrote which is standard practice.

It’s clearly stated in all Virgin Atlantic cabin crew training manuals that an employee’s manager must be copied in on any performance review that has been written. Bear in mind Bart was still in probation having only been flying as cabin crew with Virgin Atlantic for eleven months.


from minutes taken during grievance investigation meeting with Bart


With all allegations being upheld by cabin crew manager Hayley, I immediately filed an appeal. It was dealt with by senior manager xx.

This was an opportunity for her not only to look again at all of the evidence, but to also investigate what I had been stating from the start, that Bart and five members of crew one of whom was his fiancee, were lying.


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Reply to an email from my manager who asked how the appeal meeting went


One of the first things senior manager xx said to me in the appeal meeting was because the case had been going on for so long, she would try to deal with it as quickly as possible. I asked whether she had just read my appeal or the entire case. She confirmed she had read all 600 pages.

It took her almost eight weeks to come to a decision. During that time she didn’t speak to any of the crew involved. Bear in mind statements written by the crew who worked alongside Bart and myself in Upper Class told a very different story to those written by the crew who colluded with Bart.

As part of my evidence I made reference multiple times to an important WhatsApp conversation that I’d had with a friend/colleague following the flight. It had been included as evidence and I’d sent a screenshot to cabin crew manager Hayley via her work WhatsApp account.

After crew manager Lana found there was a case to answer, the matter was passed to Hayley who would go on to deal with the grievance.

Hayley did not add a copy of the WhatsApp conversation to the case notes. I’d also sent her a photograph of the corridor of the hotel in Atlanta. That hadn’t been added to the file either. It was to prove another allegation made by Bart and Anna was a lie.

Despite making reference multiple times to both pieces of evidence, senior manager xx did not ask to see them.

The following is a screenshot from an email that I sent to her regarding this matter;


Real names have been replaced with pseudonyms

As someone who was already struggling with mental health and who had only returned to work nine months earlier, dealing with any grievance matter would have been difficult enough. I was not only dealing with a grievance from someone who was telling a pack of lies, but someone who was an experienced ex police officer.



Whilst off for almost two years in 2016 I never believed I’d return to work but somehow I did. Although excited to be going back, I was terrified and wasn’t even certain it was the right decision.

Prior to doing my ‘return to work’ course I had to be cleared by Virgin Atlantic’s Occupational Health team. As well as wanting to talk about my mental health they also wanted me to have a hearing test. The reason was because I had developed tinnitus.

Tinnitus is a noise that’s not caused by an outside source. Although in your ears it comes from your brain so even if deaf, you would still hear it.

Not everyone hears the same sound. For some it’s always the same whilst for others it changes. Some people hear it in one ear, I hear it in both. It’s always the same and never stops. The constant high pitched tone is quite loud and whilst some say you eventually get used to it and can block it out, that’s not the case for me.

I was told by an E.N.T doctor it can be caused by extreme levels of stress. For the ten years before it started I’d been dealing with an unimaginable amount of stress.


Despite having worked for Virgin Atlantic for 30 years, arriving at the office for the first day of my ‘return to work’ course was terrifying. It had been a long time since I’d socialised with anyone and was no longer the bubbly and outgoing person I once was.

I wore a dark suit and whilst waiting for the day to start sat in the corner watching apprehensively at everything going on around me. I didn’t recognise anyone and felt like a fish out of water. I wasn’t convinced I would be able to get through the course.

Driving out of the car park three weeks later was an amazing feeling. I couldn’t wait to get back on an aircraft.

Nine months on to be accused of bullying, harassment, inappropriate touching and not being fit to carry out my role by a bunch of hideous misfits most of whom were still in their probation, set me back enormously.

Their poisonous lies took me on a journey so dark I don’t believe I’ll ever fully recover.

Throughout the entire investigation I struggled to understand why Virgin Atlantic were so determined to uphold the complaint. Proving Bart and his accomplices were lying took over my life and became an obsession.

In the end I was able to prove all twenty two complaints against me were lies. I was also able to prove that all five crew members supporting Bart had lied in their witness statements. It made no difference at all.

Once in uniform no matter what I was dealing with or how I felt, I was representing Virgin Atlantic. On the aircraft I was responsible for ensuring safety procedures were followed and to lead and develop a team of cabin crew. I always did that to the very best of my ability.

I felt personally responsible for ensuring each and every customer on every one of my flights had the best experience possible. I loved working for Virgin Atlantic and always gave 100% on every one of my flights.


Male Virgin Atlantic Flight Manager
Taken at some point in 2019 whilst fighting an impossible grievance