Virgin Atlantic has updated its gender identity policy, giving its crew, pilots and ground staff team the option to choose the style of uniform they want to wear. The airline has announced that the staff can choose which of the Vivienne Westwood-designed outfits they want to wear to work, regardless of the original male or female design of its red skirt suit or burgundy trousers.
The airline further added that the move was to reflect the diversity of the workforce and to reinforce its branding campaign as welcoming and inclusive.
The British airline announced in a press release on Wednesday that cabin crew, pilots and ground staff can select which uniform they feel most comfortable in — “no matter their gender, gender identity, or gender expression.” Optional pronoun badges will also become available for crew and passengers.
Virgin Atlantic Launches Gender Neutral Uniforms
Michelle Visage, a judge on RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars, who showcased the uniform alongside staff in the campaign, welcomed the move, saying, “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.”
Virgin Atlantic said the changes are part of a wider series of initiatives under its “Be Yourself” agenda. The long-haul carrier has also changed its ticketing system. Travellers who hold passports with gender-neutral markers can select “U” or “X” gender codes on their booking as well as the gender-neutral title “Mx.” Mandatory inclusivity training will also be rolled out for employees at all levels across Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Atlantic Holidays to ensure all customers feel welcome despite barriers to LGBTQ+ equality.
This isn’t the first change the airline has made to its policies. This May, the airline removed a ban that prohibits cabin crew from having visible arm and leg tattoos, Insider previously reported. However, a ban on neck, head, and facial tattoos remains for flight attendants and cabin crew as well as a ban on tattoos that contain swear words and references to nudity, violence, and culturally offensive symbols.
In 2019, Virgin Atlantic was the first major international airline to drop its makeup requirement for female cabin crew and allowed women to wear pants and flat shoes as part of their uniform.
These changes head towards a progressive future considering the aviation industry has often mandated stringent guidelines on appearance. Skirts, sarees and heels have now been replaced by sneakers and trousers as more and more airlines have begun prioritising comfort over glamour in their uniforms.
Earlier this year. Akasa Air, a new Indian airline unveiled the crew uniform and was praised for its comfortable attire and sneakers. The airline in a Twitter announcement said its crew uniform was “designed to keep our organisation’s core value of putting the comfort of our employees and the environment first”. In a further tweet, they mentioned that the crew uniforms are made using recycled polyester fabric made from bottle plastics salvaged from the ocean.
For many airlines, the clothing and appearance of cabin crews are considered key elements of their brand identity. Airline uniforms have historically been categorised as either “male” or “female,” with traditional interpretations of how men and women should dress. For female cabin crew uniforms have always been very feminine, professional and of course stylish. There were very strict standards for hair, make-up, footwear and appearance in general and weight gain was definitely not an option. The uniform was designed to show off the female figure and to look glamorous. The efforts to choose comfort over fashion will not only break the stereotypical mould but will also pave a way toward acceptance of inclusivity in all its norms.