Virgin Atlantic announced on Wednesday that pilots and other employees are allowed to wear uniforms that correspond with their “gender identity” — an action that comes as the airline struggles to turn a profit.
Pilots, crew, and members of the Virgin Atlantic ground team are permitted to wear clothes belonging to the opposite sex, meaning that men will be able to don the red jackets and skirts designed for women, who can in turn wear the burgundy trousers and blazers meant for men.
“Reflecting the diversity of the workforce and in a move that cements its position as the most inclusive airline in the skies, 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 company said in a statement, which added that employees can now wear badges declaring their preferred pronouns.
We’ve changed our uniform code to give our crew, pilot and ground teams the option to choose which of our iconic uniforms, designed by Vivienne Westwood, best represents them 👠 #SeeTheWorldDifferently pic.twitter.com/dbCP4WxObl
— virginatlantic (@VirginAtlantic) September 28, 2022
The push toward inclusivity occurs as Virgin Atlantic battles to turn a profit. The airline, which has not been in the black since 2016, reported £594 million — roughly $659 million — in losses before taxes and exceptional items last year. “While we have learned we can’t predict the future and there will be significant challenges ahead, the outlook is full of promise,” Virgin Atlantic CEO Shai Weiss said in an April press release. “This will be the year we get back to our very best for our people and our customers.”
At the end of 2021, Virgin Atlantic founder Richard Branson was forced to inject £204 million amid turbulence in the travel sector, while Delta Air Lines — which owns the other 49% of the company — contributed £196 million, according to a report from Financial Times.
Though many Americans want companies to advance agendas beyond their bottom lines, an exclusive poll from The Daily Wire showed that most investors would rather see companies pursue profits instead of pontificating on social policy. While 29% of respondents to the poll agreed it is a “good thing” for companies to use their financial power for political or social causes supported by executives, 58% — twice as many — said it is a “bad thing.”
Several high-profile companies have faced criticism from consumers in recent years over the promotion of homosexuality and transgenderism. Insurance company State Farm was forced to back down after outrage over its plan to donate books about transgenderism to schools and public libraries for children as young as five years old, while domestic subscription growth at entertainment conglomerate Disney slowed to a crawl after executives campaigned against parental rights legislation.
Earlier this year, Virgin Atlantic also became the first British airline to permit visible tattoos among members of its customer-facing teams. “Many people use tattoos to express their unique identities and our customer-facing and uniformed colleagues should not be excluded from doing so if they choose,” Virgin Atlantic Chief People Officer Estelle Hollingsworth remarked in a statement. “That’s why, in line with our focus on inclusion and championing individuality, we’re relaxing our tattoo restrictions for all our people. We’re proud to be the airline that sees the world differently and allows our people to truly be themselves.”
Three years ago, Virgin Atlantic hosted a flight to New York City “staffed entirely by LGBT+ pilots and cabin crew” — an experience meant to celebrate the arrival of World Pride 2019 in the Big Apple. Passengers partook in speed dating, drag queen performances, and a Judy Garland singalong. “We take our commitments to diversity and inclusion seriously, but you can rest assured we have a lot of fun along the way,” Virgin Group Global LGBT Lead Mark Anderson said.