David Laurence Versus Goliath
As an on-board manager at Virgin Atlantic I always carried out my duties in a confident and professional manner. I believed in myself, loved working for the company and always tried to represent them to the highest possible standard.
With there only being one Flight Service Manager on the aircraft we would rarely get the opportunity to see how other FSM’s worked. Very occasionally we would be rostered a flight out of rank and would then fly with a colleague in the same rank.
For this reason plus the fact we were a remote workforce, not all Flight Service Managers worked in exactly the same way.
With regards to safety, rules had to be followed to the letter without exception. Everything in Virgin Atlantic revolves around safety.
The way some of the onboard services were delivered and how hard the Flight Service Manager worked varied greatly. With this rank being the smallest, the cabin crew generally knew most of us and knew who was nice to fly with and who wasn’t.
From what I heard and from performance assessments that were written on me, I believe most people enjoyed flying with me. I worked incredibly hard, took good care of the crew and was a fun and caring person.
Virgin Atlantic had changed significantly since I joined in 1990. It was now quite normal to check in for a flight and to hardly know anyone else on the crew. With us all flying with different people several times a month every month, relationships had to be built quickly.
You could check in for a flight not knowing anyone and come home a few days later feeling like you’d been away with a group of friends.
Of course not everyone got along, but in the most part Virgin Atlantic cabin crew are a really nice bunch of people.
The one thing they all have in common is they love a good gossip and there was never any shortage of it.
After being made redundant I learnt rumours were circulating regarding the allegations of inappropriate touching. Having spent thirty years of my life with Virgin Atlantic I wasn’t going to allow a pack of lies to tarnish my reputation.
As you’ll see throughout my blog, I believe in the importance of providing clear factual evidence.
Despite doing that in both grievance matters raised against me, it made absolutely no difference at all.
In fact the cabin crew manager who carried out the investigation into the grievance matter regarding my tongue in cheek comment, openly accused me of not being honest.
The level of disrespect shown towards me in the complaint submitted by crew member Bart defies belief. Bear in mind he had been flying for Virgin Atlantic for eleven months and was still in probation.
Having explained in the performance review I wrote on him how the Upper Class service should be delivered, he refused to accept guidance and instead argued about how he believed the service should be delivered.
I had been working in the Upper Class cabin in one role or another since 1995. I had also been a Flight Service Manager for 19 years. He had never flown as cabin crew previously.
According to the Virgin Atlantic Service Procedures Manual, after take-off in Upper Class the crew ask each customer what they would like to drink from the bar menu. Once all drinks have been served, they introduce themselves to each customer. During this introduction they explain how the Upper Class suite operates and also take a meal order for lunch/dinner.
Only a certain number of each meal choice is loaded so depending on what everyone chooses, some people may not be able to have their first choice. This prevents unnecessary food wastage on the aircraft.
So the customer can be told straight away if what they have asked for is not available, the crew are required to get a breakdown from the galley. That way they’ll know the ratio of meals.
For example, if there are twenty customers in Upper Class and and nine chicken, nine beef and nine fish have been loaded, the three crew serving in the aisles would be given three of each. They cannot use more than their allocation. Once all orders have been taken any unused choices can then be offered to customers who may not have been able to have their first choice.
I liked doing the service this way and asked the crew to follow this procedure. It wasn’t popular however and on most flights the crew would take meal orders from all customers and hope there was enough to go around.
What often ended up happening was too many of one choice would be ordered. The crew would then have to tell some customers they couldn’t have what they had asked for.
One thing to bear in mind is the number of meals loaded was dependant on the number of customers in the cabin. With fewer customers, there were fewer meals.
On the flight to Atlanta with Bart on the 26th December, having boarded all passengers we encountered a forty minute delay. In such a short delay nothing would be done any differently. The crew in Upper Class would usually hangout in the galley waiting for the aircraft door to be closed.
Whilst standing at the open boarding door which is a requirement in line with safety procedures, I noticed Bart was going from seat to seat talking to his customers. I thought it was a nice touch.
What I didn’t realise was he was asking them what they would like to drink after take-off and what they wanted for lunch.
The service is led by the Cabin Service Supervisor. The way it’s delivered would only be changed upon instruction from them or the Flight Service Manager. However it’s delivered, all three cabin crew begin whatever they’re doing in the aisles at the same time. That has never changed in the thirty years I was with Virgin Atlantic.
Bart didn’t tell me, the Cabin Service Supervisor or either of his colleagues that he was going to start taking his orders or that he had taken them. It only became apparent after take-off when I asked them to start taking their drinks orders.
Having seen his fully completed aisle order sheet, I was surprised and disappointed at what he had done. Having told him that’s not the way we do the service in Upper Class, I explained how it’s delivered correctly.
Drinks and meal orders are very rarely taken before take-off. It very occasionally happens on full flights that leave late in the evening. In the vast majority of cases however, soon after the last customer has boarded the aircraft door is closed and from that point, the crew are involved in mandatory safety related duties. For that reason it’s rarely possible to start taking orders from customers.
It would never be done on a flight of almost nine hours that leaves before midday and with an Upper Class cabin that’s less than half full.
The following screenshot comes from the performance review I wrote on Bart. I was advising him of the correct way to deliver the service;
In the next screenshot the blue font is from Bart’s complaint. The orange is my response. Both the screenshot above and below come from documentation used in the grievance.
The following also comes from his complaint. It shows how devious he is but this is only the beginning;
Bear in mind this was a 40 minute delay so it was far from “unusual circumstances”.
Our flight to Atlanta was almost 9 hours, there were 20 customers sitting in Upper Class. Looking after those 20 people were 3 aisle crew, a Flight Service Manager and a Cabin Service Supervisor yet Bart wanted to “save time in the air.”
The way the service is delivered is clearly written in the Service Procedures Manual. If he had any questions about what he should be doing during a short delay he could have asked me as the Flight Service Manager or Katrina who was working up as the Cabin Service Supervisor. He could also have spoken with Lottie or Claire who were the two crew members working alongside him in the cabin. He spoke to nobody.
At the time of our flight together Bart had been flying with Virgin Atlantic for eleven months so was still in his probation. He told me he had worked in Upper Class many times before.
This next screenshot comes from minutes taken during my first meeting with the company regarding his complaint. He claims my comment in yellow which is from the performance review I wrote on him is bullying because it’s an inappropriate / derogatory comment about his performance.
Part of my role as a Flight Service Manager was coaching and developing.
The following screenshots are from evidence I submitted as part of my defence. The black text is from Bart’s complaint, blue is my response;
In the blue text in point 10, according to the minutes of the meeting that had taken place between Bart and crew manager Lana, he told her she could speak with Katrina who was working up as Cabin Service Supervisor. He claimed she had said it was ok for him to start taking orders.
In the very next point he says “I had taken the orders as it wasn’t busy in Upper Class”.
The following screenshots are from Virgin Atlantic’s Service Procedures Manual;
What you’ll see next is the “Table of Contents” I put together having decided to take this matter to an Industrial tribunal. You can also see how much evidence I put together to defend myself.
It’s worth mentioning once again, almost nothing I said was believed. The points that were overturned were done so because it was impossible for them to be upheld. I also proved the three complaints that were upheld were lies.
Dealing with this matter led to me becoming so depressed that all I thought about was taking my own life.
I loved working for Virgin Atlantic and hadn’t given them thirty years of my life only to be pushed out over a pack of lies.
In addition to these 520 pages I also compiled a twelve page grievance against Virgin Atlantic for the way the entire matter had been handled. I then wrote individual grievances on the four cabin crew members who lied in their witness statements plus a fifth on Bart.
With two final written warnings on my file, when candidates were selected for redundancy following the outbreak of Covid-19, there was no doubt I was high on the list.
These last three photos are how I prefer to remember my time at Virgin Atlantic.
On 99.9% of my flights over the last thirty years, these are the kind of lovely people I had the pleasure of working alongside.
This last photo was taken on my first flight back after returning from long term sick in March 2018. I was buddying with my friend Stewart and couldn’t believe his lovely friend Sandra had also managed to swap onto the flight.
I was terrified and quite emotional returning to work for that first flight but these two very special people gave me all the support that I needed.