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Virgin Atlantic Airline Makes a Bold Gender Statement

The maverick airline has laid down a challenge that Southwest, United, and even part-owner Delta may have to follow.

Companies carrying the Virgin name have generally been trendsetters that seek to disrupt the industries they operate in. Richard Branson, who founded the Virgin Group, has always been willing to do things differently. The billionaire has a sense of humor (he's famous for playing pranks) and he has never hesitated to do things that make people angry.

Virgin Atlantic, which is 49% owned by Delta Airlines (DAL) - Get Free Report, has had its struggles during the pandemic.  It filed a chapter 15 bankruptcy in 2020 when covid devastated the entire travel industry, but it survived and has rebounded along with the rest of the airlines.

Branson has never been afraid to make people angry or take on the status quo. His brands have always been a mix of playful and progressive. Virgin Atlantic has brought that spirit to air travel and, like many Branson companies, it has shown a willingness to be a first-mover.

Now, the company has made a bold decision that will put it under scrutiny in what has become known as the culture wars. 

Virgin Atlantic Gender Lead KL 093022

Flight Attendants Still Have Height, Weight Rules

The role of flight attendant has come a long way from its sexist past. Both men and women serve as flight attendants today, and airlines have slowly evolved the position, bringing it more in line with modern standards.

Still, airlines have dress codes and appearance rules that some may find a bit outdated. It varies by company, but height and weight requirements remain a thing for flight attendants on many airlines.

"The airline industry does not have a set standard for the heights and weights of flight attendants; instead, each airline sets its own. They may even have different parameters for different types of aircraft. Generally speaking, flight attendants need to be able to reach into the overhead compartments on airplanes, regardless of gender, Chron.com reports.

Some airlines are more progressive than others when it comes to setting those rules. Virgin Atlantic has just made a bold change that will shake things up for its flight attendants in a way that some may consider a political statement.

Virgin Makes a Statement on Gender

Virgin Atlantic has updated its gender identity policy and has removed requirements for its personnel (pilots and airport personnel as well as flight attendants) to wear gendered uniform options

"The policy, effective today, champions the individuality of Virgin Atlantic’s people by enabling them to wear the clothing that expresses how they identify or present themselves. This follows previous changes including optional makeup, and allowing visible tattoos for crew members and its front-line people," the company shared in a press release.

Airline personnel can mix and match from all of the available uniform choices to dress in a way that reflects their identity.

In addition, the airline has also introduced an optional pronoun badge and changed its ticketing system to allow for "passport holders with gender-neutral gender markers to use their gender codes and titles, mandatory inclusivity training for staff, and training in destination with tourism and hotel partners."

The airline made the move citing research that allowing staff to embrace their individuality at work increases mental wellbeing (49%), feelings of happiness (65%), and creates a better experience for staff and customers (24%).

"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 shared.

Virgin Atlantic has also updated its existing trans inclusion policies, which allow time off for medical treatments related to gender transition, personal choice of changing and shower facilities that align with the gender a person identifies as, and co-creation of a personalized transitioning plan.