Gender neutral uniforms at Virgin Atlantic….and tattoos

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  • rferguson

    Quite a big step from Virgin here. From their ‘sex sells’ image of the nineties and noughties (typically female, young, blonde, slim, strict rules regarding make up use and hair styles) to gender neutral.

    I think it is a great step. However, being an airline, this reach will obviously extend beyond the likes of UK, europe and the US. I am curious to know how Virgin Atlantic will handle a cis male cabin crew member flying to the likes of Islamabad, Dubai, Lagos etc.

    Personally, I couldn’t care less which gender a crew member presents to me or how old or rotund they may be. What I care about is someone being caring, kind and professional. But again, cultural and religious beliefs run deep in many parts of the world, and I hope Virgin has some mitigations for these.

    I guess Virgin could allow an exemption for gender neutral or trans crew operating to certain destinations, but I would imagine that this could annoy the other crew who will not only still have to fly to these destinations but obviously see an increase in flying to these (mainly unpopular from a crew POV) destinations.

    As an aside, I recently travelled around Brazil and flew all three main local airline – LATAM, GOL and AZUL. What I found striking (in the best possible way) was that crew at LATAM and GOL are able to display visible tattoos which in no way, shape or form took away from the great service these individuals provided nor their overall smart appearance.

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    I wouldn’t have thought there would be any problem for a cis gender crew member – do you mean trans gender?

    Like you, I couldn’t care less who looks after me, so long as they are professional in approach – it’s not a night out, they are there to ensure safety and then deliver a meal and refreshments. Pretty much anyone can do that, so why worry? I don’t particularly like tatoos, but by the same principle, it doesn’t affect the delivery of service, live and let live.

    Also, I would hope that any responsible employer would be aware of the local laws and beliefs that may place an employee in peril and roster accordingly. What the other crew think is not a consideration in this particular equation, though I understand they may feel badly done to, if they lose the opportunity to bid for certain routes or the % rate of winning them reduces.

    IMO, we should also recognise that just because we have certain beliefs, laws and behaviours, the concept of sovereignty means that other nation states also have theirs and it is not for us to believe that ours should override theirs, because we are in some way morally superior.

    One of the main tenets of Brexit was taking back control and what is good for the goose is good for the gander.

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    I actually just had a chat with about this with an acquaintance that is also Virgin Atlantic crew.

    He said, the ‘official’ line from Virgin management to crew is “The crew member needs to respect local laws and traditions and dress appropriately’. Crew members who wish to present as other will receive two uniforms: one male, one female. I guess this will lead to many interpretations of ‘appropriate’ and local norms.

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    If I had to design a really bad solution, that would make the shortlist.

    I can see potential issues including breach of the Equality Act and the protected characteristic of gender reassignment.

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    I’m ex Virgin crew. I have concerns about this move and my initial reaction was is this just Virgin trying to court publicity as is often the case with them.

    A friend who still works for them recently told me that a trans employee at Virgin was going to take them to an Employment Tribunal if they did not provide a suitable uniform for them to wear. Who knows if that is true?

    My main worry is a possible scenario where there is an angry drunk passenger who perhaps takes offence at a very masculine looking crew member who wants to wear the female uniform, including a skirt, on a flight. Their appearance would obviously attract attention and would most likely get mixed reactions from different types of passenger, some of which could be very bad and perhaps result in a risk to safety from an air rage point of view.

    Some good points have already been made in previous posts regarding this topic and safety, especially in cultures that have very different views on trans issues. Again, an obviously male member of crew identifying as female and wearing a skirt going through an airport in some parts of the world that Virgin fly to could potentially provoke very dangerous reactions.

    Trans rights are a minefield that are surely only going to become more complex as time goes on.

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