Virgin Airlines Changes Policies, Sees Job Application Boom

While other airlines struggle with staff shortages, Virgin Airlines’ says its progressive outlook has plenty of applicants ready to fly.

Airlines in general have always been at the forefront of gender-normative trends. In the 1950s, the image of the stewardess was one of a fit, white, attractive young woman who was either single, widowed, or divorced. The word “stewardess” is very evocative of scenes from “Mad Men,” where everyone is drinking martinis and it’s still legal to smoke cigarettes inside the plane cabin. My, how we’ve grown since then.

In the 60s and 70s, there was a push to replace “stewardess” with “flight attendant” because the feminist movement wanted to remove gender from job titles and more men were entering the field. These days, the job is an ideal position for people of all genders who feel called to the tourism, travel, and communications markets–or jetsetters who just want to see the world.

There’s been a lot of evolution in the airline industry, but the trends of the past still influence how many airline staff conduct themselves on a modern-day flight. One thing that has stayed the same for many airline staff is the selection of uniform, with the ladies sporting skirts and blazers while the men wear trousers instead.

Recently, Virgin Airlines  (VGII)  made a few policy changes aimed at bringing more inclusivity to their airline fashion. And it’s giving them a major leg up in the recruitment game.

Virgin Airlines to Allow Visible Tattoos, Pronoun Tags, & Gender-Fluid Uniform Options

A little over a month ago, Virgin Airlines announced that flight attendants would now be free to choose the uniform option that best suits their gender identity. Pant and skirt suits, designed by new-wave fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, will now be assigned based on the wearer’s preferences rather than a strict gender code. 

Additionally, uniforms can include pronoun markers to help passengers properly address employees, and passenger passports will now include gender-neutral markers for non-binary passengers. According to Jaime Forsstroem, Cabin Crew at Virgin Atlantic, the policy change makes has a huge impact on them. “The updated gender identity policy is so important to me,” they said in a video about the policy roll-out. “As a non-binary person, it allows me to be myself at work and have the choice in what uniform I wear.”

In May, the airline also lifted its ban of visible tattoos for its public-facing staff. Virgin Airlines, it seems, understands that the future is about identity and inclusion. And its attitude is clearly speaking to prospective employees.

Virgin Airlines Sees 100% Increase in Applicants

Between the allowance of visible tattoos and a choice in uniform, Virgin Airlines has seen a massive increase in the number of job applicants ready to take to the skies. According to CEO Shai Weiss, job applications have doubled since the change in presentation policies were updated in what the airline is calling its ‘See the World Differently’ campaign.

Airlines like Virgin, along with Delta  (DAL) – Get Delta Air Lines Inc. Report, American Airlines  (AAL) – Get American Airlines Group Inc. Report, and Southwest  (LUV) – Get Southwest Airlines Company Report saw massive layoffs during the covid-19 pandemic. As we’ve all slowly ramped back up to our regular travel plans, the need for flight attendants and airport staff has increased. Clearly this new attitude toward inclusivity is giving Virgin Airlines a hiring advantage over its many market competitors.

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