Virgin Atlantic has adopted a gender-blind uniform policy for front-line staff that the airline says will reflect the diversity of its workforce in a bid to “cement its position as the most inclusive airline in the skies.”
The move means pilots, cabin crew and ground staff can now choose whichever of its uniforms they feel most comfortable in, whether it’s a red skirt suit or burgundy jacket and pants.
The airline released an ad campaign to announce the news that is fronted by former pop star Michelle Visage and features a group of models dancing on a runway in uniform, all under the tagline, “Your uniform, your identity, your choice.”
Virgin Atlantic is not the first airline to embrace gender diversity among its workforce. In March, Alaska Airlines updated its dress code guidelines to allow employees to wear whatever uniform style, nail polish or make-up that they feel reflects their true identity.
It is unclear if other British airlines will follow suit. TPG has reached out to British Airways, Ryanair, EasyJet, TUI, Jet2 and Aer Lingus for their positions on the subject. At the time of publication, only EasyJet had responded.
“Our uniform guidelines already support our crew to wear whichever uniform they feel reflects their own gender identity/expression and we are continually reviewing, updating our guidelines and support, internally, ensuring we are creating an inclusive place to work, for everyone,” an EasyJet spokesperson said.
Virgin said the move was designed to encourage its staff members to express themselves freely, “no matter their gender, gender identity or gender expression.”
The airline’s iconic outfits are designed by fashion icon Vivienne Westwood.
“It’s so important that we enable our people to embrace their individuality and be their true selves at work,” said Juha Järvinen, Virgin Atlantic’s chief commercial officer. “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.”
Visage, who rose to fame as a pop star in the late 90s but is better known today for her role as outspoken judge on the hit reality TV show Ru Paul’s Drag Race, added: “People feel empowered when they are wearing what best represents them, and this gender identity policy allows people to embrace who they are.”
The policy shift is part of a wider attempt by the airline to embrace diversity and self-expression, as well as promote its business as a safe space for all customers.
ROBERTO MOIOLA/GETTY IMAGESIt will also offer staff and passengers the chance to wear pronoun badges on flights, available at check-in.
“This move enables everyone to clearly communicate and be addressed by their pronouns,” the airline said. “The badges will be available to teams and customers from today and customers simply need to ask for their preferred badge at the check in desk or in the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse.”
Virgin Atlantic has also updated its ticketing systems to allow for those who hold passports with gender-neutral markers to select “U” or “X” gender codes on their booking as well as the gender-neutral title “Mx.” Currently only a handful of countries in the world allow such passports, including the U.S., India and Pakistan.
The carrier said mandatory inclusivity training will also be rolled out for staff at all levels across Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Atlantic vacations.
Alongside that, Virgin will launch a series of inclusivity learning initiatives for tourism partners and hotels in destinations such as the Caribbean “to ensure all our customers feel welcome despite barriers to LGBTQ+ equality.”
The announcement comes a day after Virgin Atlantic announced its new partnership with Sky Team Alliance, becoming the only U.K.-based airline member and the first new SkyTeam member in eight years.