Virgin Atlantic has changed its uniform code to allow cabin crew, pilots and ground teams the option to choose which uniform they best feel represents them.
“Virgin Atlantic will offer its people a fluid approach to its red and burgundy uniforms, meaning LGBTQ+ colleagues will be able to choose either the red or the burgundy uniform, depending on which best reflects themselves,” the airline said in a press release on September 28, 2022.
The change forms part of a new gender identity policy, which also includes optional pronoun badges for teams and customers and an update to its ticketing system so that passengers with gender neutral gender markers can use their gender codes and titles. The airline has also introduced mandatory inclusivity training for staff and training in destination with tourism and hotel partners.
At present, there are a small number of countries, such as the United States, India and Pakistan, which allow people to hold gender-neutral passports. However, when booking flight tickets, people must select a gender that matches what is on their passport.
Fashion show with Michelle Visage
The airline released a video featuring LGBTQ+ ally Michelle Visage, joined by activists Tanya Compas, Talulah-Eve and Tyreece Nye, to explain the changes.
“It’s not about canceling people, it’s not about removing women, or removing men. It’s just about more inclusive language,” Alison Porte, a Virgin Atlantic first officer, says in the video.
Michelle Visage commented: “As the mother of a non-binary child, and as an ally to the LGBTQ+ community, these efforts by Virgin Atlantic to further inclusivity for its people are extremely important and personal to me. People feel empowered when they are wearing what best represents them, and this gender identity policy allows people to embrace who they are and bring their full selves to work.”
Cabin crew uniform standards worldwide are notoriously strict. It was only as recently as 2019 that Virgin Atlantic airline offered cabin crew the choice on whether to wear make-up as well as the option to wear trousers and flat shoes. Earlier this year, in May 2022, Virgin Atlantic relaxed restrictions on visible arm tattoos.
The airline cited a poll by 3Gem on behalf of Virgin Atlantic as finding that enabling employees to express their true selves at work boosts happiness, increases mental wellbeing, creates a more positive workplace culture, and provides a better experience for customers.
Juha Jarvinen, Virgin Atlantic’s Chief Commercial Officer, said Virgin Atlantic wanted to allow staff to embrace their individuality and be their true selves at work. “It is for that reason that we want to allow our people to wear the uniform that best suits them and how they identify and ensure our customers are addressed by their preferred pronouns.”