Virgin Atlantic Taking Major Steps Toward Workplace Equality

Published on March 18, 2019

Virgin Atlantic airlines announced recently that it’s going to reverse its policy on making all female flight attendants wear makeup during work. The decision was announced just before International Women’s Day on March 8. Virgin decided to alter its grooming standards for both men and women in 2019. These types of standards are famously strict in the aviation industry, and Virgin Atlantic wants to be at the forefront of the conversation about companies that are trying to change that. The airline will now allow its female flight attendants to choose whether or not they want to wear makeup instead of the former rules, which stated that the workers had to wear makeup at all times when representing the company.

New Guidelines

Virgin Atlantic has decided to make changes to its grooming guidelines that allow flight attendants to go without makeup. However, female flight attendants are still able to choose whether or not they want to wear the approved makeup items. A list of approved products are available in the company guidelines. The company will also, for the first time ever, provide female flight attendants with trousers upon being hired. Until now, female flight attendants would have to file a formal request to be able to wear pants instead of the red skirt that the company feels it’s become known for. Since purchasing cosmetics can turn in to an expensive hobby overnight, this will save flight attendants who don’t wish to wear the products a lot of money.

“Not only do the new guidelines offer an increased level of comfort, they also provide our team with more choice on how they want to express themselves at work,” said Mark Anderson, a rep for Virgin Atlantic to USA Today. The change in policy came after the company listened to what its employees were asking for. Not every flight attendant wants to wear makeup to work, and Virgin felt that it was important to respect that. The decision to change the Virgin Atlantic grooming policy will make the company more inclusive of gender identity. Many other companies are following suit in this effort, but the aviation industry has yet to make massive changes.

Air Industry Uniforms

It’s not uncommon to hear about female flight attendant uniforms in the news. But seldom will it be for a good reason. Last March, American Airlines flight attendants sued the company after being forced to wear uniforms that were reportedly toxic. Employees suffered symptoms like headaches, hives, and other types of rashes after wearing the new uniforms. The lawsuit claims that the company continued to force employees to wear the uniforms despite numerous complaints across the company that they were toxic. The uniforms were designed by Twin Hill and allegedly contained toxic levels of formaldehyde.

Other, less physically dangerous scandals involving flight attendant uniforms have also come up in recent years. In particular, many airlines based out of Asia have come under fire in recent years. There has been a lot of criticism for their stubbornness regarding making updates to their grooming rules. Virgin Atlantic could have been the trendsetter in new policies regarding makeup rules. But how long will it take until all airlines follow suit?


Julia Sachs is a former Managing Editor at Grit Daily. She covers technology, social media and disinformation. She is based in Utah and before the pandemic she liked to travel.

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