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IconNovember 24th, 2022
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Virgin Is Flying Its Pride Fleet to Doha, Where Crew Will Have the Freedom to Come in No Matter What Their Uniform Looks Like

In early 2019, Virgin Atlantic announced an update to its commercial uniform policy. They would no longer be required after September 28th for crew members to wear gendered uniforms to fly in those countries, but only on airplane flights with more than ten passengers. In the first round of the changes, which included destinations in the UK, the United States and Israel, this did not extend to destinations less “accepting of non-binary identities.” FIFA, the governing body for international soccer tournaments, has tightened its grip on teams that enter tournaments abroad by restricting players’ freedom of expression. Now, because the country will be hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup, crew on the Virgin Atlantic flight carrying the English national team to Qatar have been restricted in their expression as well. The iconic British trio found themselves in jubilant spirits as they headed to the Gulf nation on the “Rainbow” Airbus A350-1000 jet registered as G-VPRD. The jet was donning a rainbow emblem with a famous figure of Oscar, in rainbow sneakers and trailing the colors of the Union Jack, behind his body. The Pride took off from Birmingham Airport in the United Kingdom at 10:41am local time this morning. It is currently traversing Turkish airspace and is expected to land at Doha Hamad International Airport in Qatar around 7pm local time.

Raising the bar on “safety and security”

A Virgin Atlantic spokesperson has confirmed that the uniform for crew members on the flight was very limited. Following a risk assessment and our review of laws and attitudes towards the LGBTQ+ community in each country, it was recommended that we not apply today’s charter flight policy. It’s easy to understand the concern for LGBTQ+ people in Qatar. Male homosexuality is illegal in the country and may be punished by up to three years in prison or even death. Kane wanted to wear a rainbow captain band during his games Despite the 2018 FIFA World Cup having been moved to Qatar in recent months, many athletes have spoken up and voiced their support for LGBTQ+ rights. Star striker Harry Kane has said he will wear his Captain Rainbow armband during games and be vocal about LGBTQ+ rights. The Football Association (FA) also stated that it had not yet chosen which aircraft will transport it to Doha for the tournament, but was more than happy with Virgin’s selection of planes. It may be true that Virgin is steering crews away from uniform choices that are gender neutral in order to accommodate attitudes at specific destinations. However, the airline is taking a pretty clear stand by sending its “Rainbow” A350 to Doha. As such, their status of LGBTQ+ ally probably comes out as plus-minus zero. We’re not going to disclose where we’re planning to go in January, but we have already explained our decision on the change of this policy update to all Flight Crew members. Some destinations are assessed as accepting non-binary identities while others are case-by-case depending on the conversation between crew members and managers. Doha is not on the list of a busy airline’s regular destinations. So, if anything unexpected arises, such as an unplanned delay that forces the crew to stay longer than anticipated, they’re obligated to do so with safety in mind.  

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