Virgin Atlantic’s chief executive, Shai Weiss, reports a 100% increase in applications for cabin crew positions after the airline decided to do away with customary gender-based uniform requirements in September.
Virgin Atlantic eliminated “male” and “female” uniform kits as part of a controversial policy shift, allowing employees to wear whatever attire best reflects their gender, gender identity, or gender expression.
Although the official gender policy goes far further and is intended to provide staff members more freedom to express themselves, some segments of the right-wing media have misrepresented the shift as just allowing male cabin crew to wear skirts.
The airline has also relaxed some of the requirements for wearing uniforms, allowing male staff members to wear full faces of makeup and allowing cabin employees to have visible tattoos while in uniform.
Weiss told the Telegraph at a press conference for Virgin Atlantic’s first flight on its brand-new Airbus A330neo aircraft, from London Heathrow to Tampa, Florida, that the change had been a “tremendous” assistance in attracting applications for a variety of posts across the company.
Like most airlines, Virgin Atlantic is trying to replace the staff that was lost during the epidemic while also trying to meet the demand for travel, which is still on the rise despite concerns about growing costs of living and inflation.
Weiss told the Telegraph in reference to a marketing effort that came along with the introduction of Virgin’s new gender expression policy: “We observed a 100% uplift in applications following the campaign.”
In an effort to reach the airline’s target market, the carrier enlisted the aid of well-known celebrities, such as RuPaul’s Drag Race judge Michelle Visage, to assist promote the policy.
Weiss asserts that airlines that have not yet loosened the industry’s customarily rigid and conformist norms around uniforms and gender expression are having difficulty hiring cabin personnel.
We’re in a really strong situation when there are 10 applicants for each vacancy, said Weiss.
At the same press conference, Weiss told passengers that Virgin Atlantic will run its full winter schedule and would fight any attempts to impose a passenger cap.
Last week, Heathrow Airport abolished a contentious passenger cap, but the airport’s troubled operator suggested it would be necessary to impose restrictions on passenger numbers during busy times over the holiday season.
The plan was deemed “totally unacceptable” by Weiss, who urged Heathrow Airport to use the remaining time to hire enough workers to handle the anticipated demand.