What can I use this service for?
Anything where you would value talking to a peer. This may cover topics such as:
your psychological well being; life stressors and changes; relationship problems; fatigue; work/life balance; bereavement; sim check worries; work pressures; colleague concerns; career options; financial problems; health concerns etc.
The trained peers are there for you, your well-being as a person and as a pilot. While they cannot act on your behalf, provide expert opinion, advice or even ‘fix’ your problem, what makes them superbly qualified is that they are Virgin Atlantic pilots like you. They have all had further/advanced training in supporting fellow pilots and they in turn are supported by a team of independent psychologists. They are willing to listen to you, understand your challenges and help you figure it out (or at least point you in the right direction).
What happens if I make a request?
Once you have requested contact you will receive an email/text message confirming your contact request. The first Peer Volunteer to pick it up, will either text or email you (whichever preference you indicated) and arrange a suitable time to talk on the phone.
The initial conversation will be to understand how we can best help you - or which direction to point you in. You may have a specific request for guidance or information, or you may be seeking support on a particular challenge you are facing. Either way, we are here for you.
How bad do things need to get before I can request a call?
Like most things, it is better to deal with problems and talk to others before they start to boil over.
Things needn’t get to a crisis point before you contact us. In fact, the sooner you do, the better we can support you.
Occasionally though, life can feel especially tough and overwhelming - and as a peer support network, that is what we are here for.
What if I am concerned about a colleague?
It is always better for people themselves to make contact with this service. However, sometimes they are too fearful to do so, or have lost perspective on the impact that this is having on their performance or those they work with. If you believe that their situation has an immediate safety implication, then you are obliged to act directly and contact your line manager or pilot helpline.
However, if you believe the impact is more ‘slow burning’, cumulative or may put a less experienced or assertive colleague in a potentially difficult position, then we suggest discussing this through with a peer.
To be clear, this is not about 'reporting' your colleague, this is about discussing it with a trained peer and together working out what your best course of action is.
Having read this and find you still have concerns, contact us anyway: that's what we are here for!
Can I use this service in an Emergency?
No, we are not set up to deal with emergencies. If you think that your own (or someone else’s) safety is in immediate danger, please click here for your options.
How do I complain about this service?
If something isnt working for you, the only way we can fix it is if you let us know. Please direct your complaint to us, directly (firstname.lastname@example.org) and be assured that we will deal with them in a discrete and appropriate manner. Equally, if you would rather direct it elsewhere, please send your complaint to the Head of Flight Operations or your BALPA rep.
Requesting a call
How are the Peers allocated and who sees my contact request?
Once you have submitted a contact request, a message goes to all our peers indicating that there is a ‘contact request’. The first suitably available peer to login and pick up this request will see your contact details. No other peers will see your contact request or details. If the first peer recognises your name or contact details they will pass this onto the next available peer and keep that to themselves. No one else will be aware of this.
Remember that they will not know why you have requested contact. It may be for a range of reasons including seeking support for yourself or raising a concern about a colleague.
What if I know the peer I speak to?
There is always a chance that you might know the peer volunteer who makes contact with you.
For good and hopefully obvious reasons, we do not think that this is advisable and is to be avoided, if possible. If either of you discover that you do know each other beyond being vague work acquaintances, your peer will seek to transfer your contact to another peer.
Can I ask to speak to a peer who is (or isn't) in my fleet, same seat, my gender, sexual orientation, skill level, etc?
As far as we can, we will seek to accommodate your preference. You can mention this in the first conversation following your contact request. As this may not always be possible, you can be assured though that our peers are trained to listen, be human and most importantly, not to judge those they are supporting.
How much information will I need to provide in my contact request?
All we want is a first name (it doesn't even need to be your real name, if you would prefer), your email address and a contact number. We need no other details.
Why can't I speak to someone immediately and why are there different contact request times i.e. 12/24/48hrs?
As this is a Peer Support Programme, we want your first contact to be with a Virgin Atlantic pilot - and not a call centre operator. Given that they are working pilots too, it is not always possible to immediately connect you to one. However, they will do their best to respond to you as soon as is reasonable - and within your requested timeframe.
You can help us identify the level of need from your request:
If you ask to be contacted within 12hrs, we will assume that it is urgent and will do what we can to respond as soon as possible.
If you request to be contacted within 24hrs - we will assume your request is important, and not urgent. However, you would prefer to talk to someone sooner than later and we will respond to you within daytime hours.
If you request to be contact within 48hrs - we will assume that whilst your request is important, you are happy for us to contact you during daytime hours, Monday - Friday.
What if I dont want to proceed with the peer who has been allocated to me?
If you know the peer once they have made contact with you and would prefer not to proceed, or you have already started and would like a different peer, you have two options:
1) let them know that you would prefer to speak to some one else; or
2) let the administrator know (email@example.com ) and they can reallocate a different peer to you.
Steps and Stages
What happens in the first conversation?
After arranging a suitable time to talk with you, the first conversation with your peer will be to establish how they can best help you - either by supporting you directly or pointing you in the right direction.
Can the peer intervene, help me out or advocate on my behalf?
No. As this is a peer support service, the aim is to support you make decisions and take action in resolving a particular problem or issue you are dealing with. Them doing it for you is seldom a wise solution.
Can a peer decide if I am 'fit to fly'?
No. They are not qualified nor in a position to decide on whether you are fit to fly. Even following your conversation, that decision remains your responsibility. However, as a peer they can help you work this out yourself and/or figure out your options and how best to progress them. This is what they are here for. Their role is to support you not only make this decision but be there for you following whatever decision you make.
What are the limits of this service support?
Please remember this is peer support service - and not an expert information or advice centre. Your peer will be happy to share what they know and help where they can.
What if the peer can't help me?
Your peer is supported by a clinical psychologist which they have access to, who in turn has access to a range of resources and channels. If for some reason, your peer can't help you, they will do their best to find out or direct you to someone who can.
I didn't receive my email/text confirming receipt of my contact request
As we are in the beta stage of setting this up, you may not immediately receive this confirmation via email or text. However, when you click the submit button there will be a message confirming receipt on the screen. If you haven't heard anything within the requested time, please assume we haven't received it.
contact us. We will get back to you as soon as possible - however, it may be during office hours that we do.
I have a question that has not been answered here.
Apologies - if you have a question, we'd love to hear it and we will do our best to answer it.
This FAQ is only as good as the questions posed. Please send it to us
Is this service really independent?
Yes. Virgin Atlantic recognises that for this to work, it needs to be independent of the company, the unions and the Regulator. This is in line with recent EASA and CAA recommendations.
While this service is staffed by trained peers, it is managed and supported by an independent company, The Centre for Aviation Psychology, to ensure standards are met and the service is professionally managed. This company consists of clinical psychologists who specialise in aviation psychology and are market leaders and subject matter experts in this field.
While the Peer Support Programme is independent, it is operationally accountable to the
Virgin Atlantic Steering Group. This is chaired by the Head of Flight Ops, a BALPA representative and HR representative. They meet quarterly to discuss overall usage patterns - never individual cases.
Is this service confidential?
Yes. Whilst it is operationally accountable to the Virgin Atlantic Steering Group, the details of individual users are strictly confidential and are protected in the same way medical records would be protected.
What are the limits to this confidentiality?
We take your confidentiality very seriously. However, if you tell us anything that gives us demonstrable concern about your safety or anyone else’s, just as in other healthcare settings, we are ethically and legally obliged to waive your confidentiality. In this extremely rare event, your peer will follow an established protocol of contacting their clinical supervisor and together deciding on the most appropriate course of action. However, they will always work with you first to figure out a way in which you and others can be safely protected and with your consent.
What information is stored about me?
We keep a protected and encrypted record of your contact details. We also keep a separate, anonymised and encrypted record of your contact with the peer supporting you - and to which their clinical supervisor has sight of. However, no other peer has sight of this. In exceptional circumstances and within an established protocol, the Clinical and Operational Directors of the VAPSP (both CAP Clinical Psychologists) can access this information. Within your rights under the Data Protection Act, you can request to see the information we hold on you.
To do so, please contact us and we will send you the address to which you can direct your enquiry and the process in which we can verify your identity.
What if I bump into the peer supporting me in a different setting (e.g. down route; training event; socially, etc.)?
Unless you are vaguely aware of each other prior to using this service, your peer will have only ever spoken to you on the phone. If you do realise that you know each other, your peer will greet and acknowledge you as colleagues normally would - in a friendly and collegiate way. They will make no reference to the fact that they are or have supported you via this service.
It would not be advisable to discuss anything regarding your situation in this setting. This is because: we want to respect your privacy and boundaries; others may overhear you; and as you are both at work (even if we are down route or socialising in a group) it would be the wrong setting to discuss these topics.
What connection do peers have with Flight Ops Duty Managers or BALPA reps?
Just as you can, peers are always able to speak to a duty manager or BALPA rep. However, they will never talk to them about a particular person or provide identifying details if talking about a general situation. However, they may call them for information or advice on a company process or available resources.