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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.
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;
This is from T’s witness statement;
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.
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.
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?
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.
This comes 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.
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.
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.
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;
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.
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).
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. ;
The next screenshot comes from Lottie’s witness statement. She worked alongside me in Upper Class. Her statement was honest and accurate.
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.