Virgin Atlantic has renamed two of its A350 aircraft after “iconic women” to celebrate International Women’s Day.

‘Lady Emmeline’ pays tribute to Emmeline Pankhurst, women’s rights activist and founder of the Suffragette movement. The new aircraft (registration G-VLIB) is set to enter service in April 2022, and will operate on leisure routes including Orlando, Antigua and Barbados.

Virgin also confirmed that all charitable donations received on-board Lady Emmeline will be distributed to a selection of women’s charities.

A second A350 (registration G-VEVE) will be named ‘Fearless Lady’, in celebration of Sir Richard Branson’s late mother Eve Branson, who passed away in January. The carrier said the following of Eve:

“Described as ‘an entrepreneur before the word existed’, Eve led a colourful life which included enlisting in the WRENS during World War II, taking gliding lessons disguised as a boy and working as a pioneering air hostess on the treacherous British South American Airways routes.

“More recently, she founded the Eve Branson Foundation, which aims to improve the lives of women and young girls in the Atlas Mountains as well as providing education and health care to those in need.”

The move follows last year’s partnership with Barbie, which saw Virgin showcase aviation careers, including pilots and engineers – “roles that are typically underrepresented by women”.

In 2019 the carrier announced plans to feature new Flying Icons on its forthcoming A350 fleet, as the carrier pledges to “tackle its gender pay gap and increase diversity and inclusion across the business”.

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Commenting on the news Estelle Hollingsworth, chief people officer at Virgin Atlantic, said:

“We’re delighted to be celebrating two fearless females this International Women’s Day. Having their names emblazoned on the side of our planes will act as a lasting reminder of their spirit and the determination to drive positive change that both of these exceptional women encompassed.

“Today, we will also be celebrating our own women in aviation. We are focussed on being a fair, diverse, and inclusive employer that attracts the best talent, regardless of gender. We’re committed to creating an environment that allows women to thrive in the workplace, by ensuring we have a gender balance in leadership positions, as well as creating a framework for future talent to flourish.”