I've been asked by people why I'm so upset with Virgin Atlantic/Richard Branson, and what it is that I want. This is going to jump around a bit, but it will make sense when you read the whole thing.
First, what I really want isn't possible: I want that it never happened. It never should have happened. That it did is disgusting, despicable, depraved, uncivilized, and a host of other words I can't use here. It. Never. Should. Have. Happened.
First, G4S -- which already has a ripe reputation for numerous reasons I will leave you to search, start with the Olympics -- had a security officer who apparently let personal issues get the best of any professionalism that he/she/it may have had. This officer then got agents of Virgin Atlantic involved, not one of them who apparently questioned what they were being told or argued that their policy said otherwise.
This stinks, and the best analogy that won't get me in trouble with Blackfive for language is abcess. You had multiple members of Virgin Atlantic involved, and in that one would presume that there was a manager of some sort in the mix. Not one of them knew their own company's policy and stood up for it. Not. One. This is not just an abcess, but a gangrenous abcess and that it exists says much about the management and leadership of the company. This is rot that comes from the top down, and it does not say good things about the company or its leadership if they've missed something rotting like this. It needs to be removed for the good of the corporate body IMO.
No, Richard Branson is not the section leader, the day-to-day head of the division, the airline, etc. So, he can't be there for every decision; but, the leadership he has set in place should be, and it isn't or isn't involved enough to know they've got a problem. That no one, from him on down, either made sure policy was known or failed to discover they had a problem says a lot and none of it good.
I don't fault him for being a Chief of Staff and not knowing what PVT Snuffy was doing out at Camp Swampy. I fault him for not being enough of a chief of staff to check up on the leadership he had put in place, not checking beyond them with visits or other, and in how he has handled this so far. The apology only came after the story went viral. Strike One. Read his apology on Twitter or here.
"An airport security guard made a dreadful mistake in telling our staff a service woman could not wear her uniform on our flight. Our team made a mistake in following that advice. [email protected] people involved are mortified and have apologised profusely."
Okay, take a moment and parse that. Richard Branson is not sorry for anything, no apology from him, no statement of regret. Strike Two. His team is "mortified" and has apologized profusely (when, where, how, and to what effect?). This was all the fault of a security guard, an employee of G4S (not government worker). No Virgin Atlantic employee is truly at fault. Strike Three.
I tweeted and e-mailed three questions to him:
Per my tweets, three basic questions for you:
1. What steps are you taking to prevent something so despicable and detestable from ever happening again?
2. The guard may have started it, but your staff went along with it willingly and perhaps even eagerly from the press report. What is being done in regards your staff who acted to humiliate PO Howse?
3. How could something like this happen in the first place? Who failed in leadership, and what will be done as a result?
So, what do I want? It's really pretty simple when it comes to Sir Richard and Virgin Atlantic.
1. I want a sincere, honest, and simple apology admitting that they screwed up, and are sorry. That includes from Sir Richard. No hedging, no saying unnamed staff is "mortified" and no ducking that they have responsibility for failure too. That's a start.
2. I think they owe PO Howse more than just an honest and real apology. I think that goes up and down the chain, and I think they need to do right by her in every freaking way possible. I'm not talking a free upgrade and points on her frequent flyer account for her next flight. It needs to be real and substantive enough to be painful to corporate leadership, so that maybe a lesson can be learned.
3. Even more, I think they owe PO Howse and every serving member of the British Military an actionable apology in the form of making sure every last person in their chain from Sir Richard to the person emptying the toilet waste of the jet knows AND WILL FOLLOW their policy, and put into place concrete and demonstrable practices to ensure that something like this never happens again. It also needs to be made clear that if such, or any other thing that disrepects those in service, happens again, it is an automatic sacking (firing) offense.
4. If the people involved are not at fault, then obviously this is a serious failure of leadership. If those who did this foul and despicable thing are not to be disciplined in any form, then that falls to leadership. It need not be sacking, though I think that more than warranted in this case from flight staff on up, but it needs to be real, meaningful, and painful enough to teach a lesson.
As an aside, I find it incredibly ironic that even as he's tweeting about working against violence towards women, that Sir Richard will accept no blame to him or his staff about humiliating a woman. Even though his staff did so in what I regard as a cowardly, despicable, and demeaning way. To be honest, that's part of my ire. I hear talk, here's a chance to show some walk with it.
Now, as to G4S, I have no expectation that they will admit to anything, do anything, or otherwise man up. I would like to see the agent in question sacked, and such done in a way that it never works in any aspect of the security industry again in any way, shape, or form. I would like to see the company fined heavily, and/or lose the contract. Not going to happen, but I can dream.
So, no PC, no politico speak, no corporate speak: just simple honesty. In truth, there is absolutely nothing they can do that will make up for the pain, humiliation, and worse inflicted on PO Howse. Nothing will make this not have happened.
That said, that doesn't mean that they should get away with a two-part pablum of a tweet that admits no real wrong doing. They need to do what they can, and it needs to be substantive, for her. If they have any PR sense, they will donate to one or more of the British military support charities, particularly those focusing on the wounded, an amount equal to what they offer her. So far, they've not shown much sense, and especially PR sense, but one can hope.
More than that, they need to show that they do take this seriously, and have taken substantive steps to ensure it does not happen again. Simple words, honest and concrete public actions.
I don't think that is too much to ask.
Thanks to Team Twitchy for their coverage of the situation, and to all who have jumped in to spread the word.