Virgin Atlantic chief executive Shai Weiss says applications to join the airline as cabin crew have surged by 100 per cent following its decision in September to scrap traditional gender-based uniform rules.
The headline-grabbing policy change saw Virgin Atlantic scrap ‘male’ and ‘female’ uniform kits and instead staff can choose whichever uniform best represents them regardless of their gender, gender identity, or gender expression.
Some elements of the right-wing media have portrayed the change as simply allowing male cabin crew to wear skirts, although the official gender policy goes much further and is designed to give staff the freedom to express themselves better.
The airline has also loosened other uniform rules, such as allowing cabin crew to wear visible tattoos in uniform, and giving male crew the right to wear a full face of makeup.
During a press event for Virgin Atlantic’s inaugural flight from London Heathrow to Tampa, Florida on its new Airbus A330neo aircraft, Weiss told the Telegraph that the change had been a “tremendous” help in getting applications for a variety of roles across the business.
Like most airlines, Virgin Atlantic is in a race to hire back staff lost during the pandemic and keep up with travel demand which shows no sign of slowing down despite cost of living fears and rising inflation.
Referencing a marketing campaign that accompanied the launch of Virgin’s new gender expression policy, Weiss told the Telegraph: “We saw a 100 per cent uplift in applicants following the campaign.”
The airline hired well-known celebrities including RuPaul’s Drag Race judge Michelle Visage to help promote the policy, with ads playing across social media channels in an attempt to reach the airline’s target audience.
Weiss claims that airlines that are yet to loosen the airline industry’s traditionally strict and conformist uniform and gender expression rules are struggling to recruit cabin crew.
“When we get 10 applicants for every job – we’re in a really good position,” Weiss continued.
During the same press junket, Weiss reassured travellers that Virgin Atlantic planned to operate its full winter schedule and said the airline would resist any attempt to cap passenger numbers.
Heathrow Airport lifted a controversial passenger cap last week, but the embattled airport operator said it might need to restrict passenger numbers during peak periods over the holiday season.
Weiss called the suggestion “completely unacceptable” and demanded Heathrow Airport to use the remaining time left to recruit enough staff to meet the expected demand.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.