Virgin Atlantic Cabin Crew No Longer Have To Wear Makeup

Filed Under: Virgin Atlantic

Times have changed, and I’m in favor of airlines getting rid of policies that are inherently sexist, or limit peoples’ freedoms.

Obviously different cultures are at different stages, so something that’s viewed as sexist in the US may not be viewed as sexist elsewhere (we could probably debate the merit of that all day long).

To give one example, in the US I couldn’t imagine an airline requiring flight attendants to do their hair in a certain way, or wear makeup in a certain way (decades ago that was the norm, but not anymore). Conversely, Singapore Airlines continues to use the “Singapore Girl” as their most recognizable brand image, without much pushback.

Virgin Atlantic is interesting in this regard. The airline tries to create an image as being “sexy,” but personally I think they manage to do so without trying to objectify their employees. So in my opinion they strike a pretty good balance there.

Even though the airline is very much about “appearances,” I’m happy to see that Virgin Atlantic has just changed their grooming and dress policies for cabin crew. What’s changing?

  • Virgin Atlantic will no longer require female cabin crew to wear makeup; if cabin crew (male or female) do choose to wear makeup, they should use the company’s suggested color palette, though
  • All female Virgin Atlantic flight attendants will automatically be provided with pants as a uniform option in addition to a skirt, while previously pants had to be specifically requested

Virgin Atlantic’s Executive Vice President of Customer had the following to say:

“We have been listening to the views of our people and as a result have announced some changes to our styling and grooming policy that support this. 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. Helping people to be themselves is core to our desire to be the most loved travel company.”

Kudos to Virgin Atlantic for making these changes, which are in line with what I’d expect from a company that’s as progressive as them.

  1. It is hypocritical to complain about western airlines treatment of women, while using the big Middle Eastern carriers.
    Reminds me of the rich feminist actresses hypocritically criticising Trump while advertising for Emirates and Qatar. It comes across as pure virtue signalling.

  2. @Jack why should we care? It is about service, not appearance. Whatever makes the FA most comfortable will allow them to give the best service.

  3. Isn’t it just part of the uniform. Next you’ll say that it’s OK for the crew to wear jeans and sneakers because a unform “imit peoples’ freedoms”.

  4. Big loss for all the men like Jack, Enzo, and Tom who expect flight attendants to make them horny

  5. Unbelievably stupid. How is it sexist to ask a flight attendant to wear makeup? Because we don’t ask men to wear makeup that makes it sexist? The flight attendants’ job is to create a pleasant atmosphere when flying. Is that better achieved when women wear makeup or without it? Why not let men and women wear whatever they want as well? If clothing matters why shouldn’t facial appearance matter?

  6. What happened to James? Seems like this is the kind of article he’d write. Also, more trip reviews please! It’s been a week since the last one and I’m suffering from withdrawal 🙂

  7. @leon this discussion is ridiculous. Uniform is not the same as make up. Most women and even some men, do wear it. They are simply saying it’s not mandatory , however it’s likley the majority will continue to wear it and can’t be reprimanded if they don’t

  8. I think this is a great move. As someone who suffers from super sensitive skin, I rarely wear makeup since it can irritate my skin (which I’d think would look worse than not wearing makeup to begin with). I’m sure there are probably flight attendants who have the same issue, so kudos to Virgin Atlantic!

  9. I don’t understand how you equate makeup with a uniform. Forcing women to wear makeup is weird and I’m sure that many women will still choose to wear it, but they no longer have to. Some of the people commenting on this thread are dinosaurs.

  10. Let’s welcome Virgin to the 21st century. Even if they are 20 years late. Can you imagine any other industry requiring one gender to put stuff on their faces but not requiring the other gender to slather stuff on their faces?

    Actually kinda shocked to read that it was a thing.

  11. Now this makes me curious about Virgin Atlantic’s “suggested color palette.” Perhaps the airline could offer makeup tips for passengers.

  12. I suspect most of the female attendants will continue to wear some amount of makeup. In any service industry, appearances count for something. I don’t Lucky quite understands how much makeup women wear during regular workdays much less going out at night, etc.

    I can’t imagine a woman getting all ready for work, looking into a mirror at a totally unmade face and feeling good about herself. I know it’s crazy, but that’s the way the world is.

    This is just a pure PR stunt by virgin to look progressive. Foolish to see this addressing true sexism in any palpable way.

  13. @ V — “I can’t imagine a woman getting all ready for work, looking into a mirror at a totally unmade face and feeling good about herself.” Ummm, you realize the sexism in that assumption, correct?

  14. @Tiffany –

    Two things –

    1) The statement is correct. How often do you go to work without a brush of something on your face, eyes etc? It’s culturally and socially ingrained. That doesn’t mean you spend hours on your face every AM, but the vast majority of women cannot honestly tell me they don’t put something on their face before work.

    2) Your definition of sexism in my comment is incorrect. I could also say that a heterosexual male would not feel good about himself wearing a dress and heels to work. Does that make my comment homo or transphobic? Also, when you attack a quote as sexist, please include the second sentence in that phrase so that it gives you some proper context. This is the nature of the world.

    Let’s all take a deep breath and realize it’s not sexist for women to want to look nice. It’s sexist to enforce a definition of “nice looking”. I think that’s the missed point here. Employers should not require it, but I guarantee the great majority of female attendants will continue to wear makeup – and I am sure I know why.

  15. @Icarus I disagree it SHOULD be mandatory for women, and that does NOT make it sexist. Anyone with good business sense knows that presentation matters, that means appearance and conduct. Uniforms and makeup both affect the appearance. Anyone who has flown Singapore Airlines and then flown American would not exactly what I’m talking about.

  16. To all wannabe feminists. Answer these two questions.

    Did you wear makeup to your job interview?

    If so or if not, why?

  17. I’m laughing at the comments from the pathetic men who rely on smiles and attention from women WHO ARE PAID to be polite and friendly to them as part of their job.

    Perhaps if you weren’t a corpulent, sexist jerk nice women would talk to you for free.

  18. It’s all going down the drain, why bother. Passengers dress as if they just jumped out of bed, act like uncivilized wannabes. So it all makes sense.
    Next step, no more uniforms just a T-shirt and shorts or a muu muu.

  19. BA has had this same policy (no need to wear makeup) for around six or seven years now.

    90% of female crew still choose to wear it.

    I think what people forget on here is that in europe or the US etc you can’t fire someone for being fat/old/wrinkly etc. Unlike in the middle east or Asia.

    So these ‘Virgin girls’ that were recruited fifteen years ago at the age of 25 certainly don’t look the same these days. Some of them look plain ridiculous squeezing their expanded older bodies in those tight red dresses and heels designed for someone much junior.

  20. @Duck Ling – I can assure you BA does not have a no make up policy. Certainly on Mixed Fleet we have a required minimum suggested make up which includes blush, mascara and lipstick.

  21. @ V – I have never once worn make up for a job interview, yet I have managed to achieve decent career progression. There is no reason why my husband’s naked face should be completely socially acceptable yet mine needs to be covered up or attract criticism such as that displayed in some of these comments. I’ve yet to see anyone attempt a decent argument (besides “that’s just the way it is”, which is nonsense) against this.

    Of the attributes I look for in flight attendants, their usage of cosmetics doesn’t even feature. I’d much rather have a bare faced, attentive flight attendant than one with a perfectly applied full face of make up who couldn’t give a damn.

  22. So, basically, come to work looking like any old piece of wrinkled clothing? Gotcha.

    If that’s ‘equality,’ then color me amused. Frankly, their J product is dated and subpar, along with their always-craptastical catering. VA hasn’t served much purpose for me for awhile, so this is what I would definitely consider a non-issue.

  23. @V the only “makeup” that I wear regularly is chapstick. My skin is blemish free and even toned. I have naturally dark and full eyebrows and eyelashes and visible cheek bones. I’m also regularly told that I look 15-20 years younger than I am (currently 39).

    I have no need for makeup unless I’m taking professional photographs for weddings and such. I do like to jazz it up sometimes when I go out with some lip gloss.

    Point is, not all women need or want to wear makeup or look markedly better with it.

  24. @Lauren Sickles –

    I’m cracking up after reading your comment!

    You Just proved my point.

    “I don’t wear makeup because I have a perfect face and look half my age”

    Way to set back the feminist movement loser

  25. @V Most women have the “perfect face” they’re just brainwashed in to believing they don’t, seemingly due to people like you.

    Btw feminism is about choice and equality, so not sure how I set anything back. Me, thinking I look perfect naturally is exactly what feminism is about.

  26. @ V — 1) Hah, you picked the gal with the wrong gig to ask, because the answer is all but probably 10 days a year (and I work 365 of them) for the past eight years. And I’m damn good at my job.

    Now, when I worked as a make-up artist (which I was also more than decent at), I applied strip lashes and what felt like two inches of cosmetics to my face every day, because I was selling a particular version of beauty, and that helped me do my job. Compression stockings could arguably make a flight attendant (male or female) better at their job. But mascara isn’t magically going to improve anyone’s ability to provide service or safety assistance.

    2) No it isn’t. The assumption that a person of any gender has to conform to certain standards of appearance or behavior simply because of that gender, is, inherently, sexist. By definition. It seeming “crazy” or “the way the world works” doesn’t make the assumption not-sexist.

    “Real Men” should be able to order cocktails with umbrellas in them if that’s what they enjoy, and women can look professional without painting their face.

  27. Hear hear Tiffany. Thanks for your eloquent replies. Pisses me off to no end that so many points and miles websites are frequented by gross men who are still no doubt wanking off in their dreams to the “Singapore girl”.

    Some men need to grow up and realise that flight attendants aren’t there to help them fulfill their pathetic inflated sense of sexual entitlement.

  28. Totally agree with Tiffany’s take although I’m still laughing at the thought of the employer providing pants! (means something a bit different this side of the Pond, I’m guessing Ben translated it for here :D)

  29. As a dude, I am in full agreement with Tiffany, Lauren, and Jennifer.

    Look yall, a lot of modern beauty standards are inherently sexist. Forcing women to wear “sexy” clothing or paint their face to make them appear more “attractive” to straight male clientele that is entirely irrelevant (or perhaps hindering) to their job duties of providing safety and giving timely and efficient service is…sexist. Likewise, forcing a male presenting person to, say, remove makeup would also be sexist.

    And because social change is slow to move, the vast majority of staff will probably continue as they are today anyway. It’s great, however, that at least female flight attendants will have more options and as long as they are focused about safety and providing attentive service, it shouldn’t matter whether or not they have makeup on.

  30. “Kudos to Virgin Atlantic for making these changes, which are in line with what I’d expect from a company that’s as progressive as them.”

    Well…not that progressive, maybe.

    “Virgin Atlantic has a significant gender pay gap, according to figures published last year. Its median hourly rate for women is 30% below that of men, something that means – as the government’s gender pay gap report painfully spells out – that women earn 70p for every £1 that men earn. (The gender pay gap at British Airways, by contrast, was 10% in 2017.)”

  31. If anyone thinks BA doesn’t have a make up policy then watch the ‘Very British Airline’ documentary and see trainee cabin crew get marked down for not reapplying her lipstick often enough and you’ll be disabused of that notion.

  32. We can only hope some of those old boilers on board keep wearing it. Jesus, imagine waking up to some of them without make-up. And some of those Queens will keep doing it anyway LOL.

  33. @Hawaiian Joe — James left to work for The Points Guy. It’s a shame it hasn’t been announced, cos I kept looking for his recent articles too.

  34. @Lauren

    I couldn’t care less about your or any other woman’s face. Please read the above comments. You are the one who defined a “perfect” face as blemish free, thick dark eyelashes and naturally visible cheekbones. It’s not because of me that you harbour these biases.


    1) I assume your gig is an at home gig, which is irrelevant to this discussion. Furthermore I would argue if you think you work 365 days a year then you really work closer to 0.

    2) By that definition, all parents who (gasp) dress their baby daughters in feminine clothing and pierce their ears are “sexist” because such appearances are considered socially acceptable.

    @ Coralie

    Wanking? Really? Did you not read anything I wrote above? I fully support whatever you want to do about looks makeup etc and agree it should not be enforced. Please read the posts before disgracing yourself with such a childish comment.

    I’m shocked by the poor reading comprehension on display today by so many. @Tiffany in particular – your comments about defending how good you are at your job are totally unnecessary. Not sure how you got to to that point but it shows some basic inferiority complex you probably need to address.

  35. I’ll tell you what V – Tiffany managed to keep her replies professional and not stoop to personal comments.

  36. @Malc – that’s interesting thanks. I assume that’s linked to the launch of a UK oriented version of TPG? I can’t see the need for it myself.

  37. “James left to work for The Points Guy”

    Hahahahahahahahahaha (if true)

    Come to think of it…how many other people are there still posting for this site? There used to be a section featuring the other contributors and their pictures, but it seems to be gone now…

  38. @Evan — Yes, I assume it’s for the UK version. I think it’s a shame his departure wasn’t announced, cos his posts seemed popular (perhaps there’s some legal dispute?). I recently had another go at getting into The Points Guy website, but it just seems so commercial and impersonal. I do hope Lucky and Tiffany find someone to replace James because I particularly enjoyed his posts, which seemed more general interest.

    @Julia — Yes, Spencer seems to have dropped off too. And even the long-term ones don’t seem to write much now.

  39. @ Evan @ Malc — Can’t think of why we’d announce it as front page news (seems awkward, mostly), though we’re of course personally supportive of his choice, and we’ve tried to respond to comments and questions when people have asked. We’re all still on friendly terms, and it’s not a secret at all.

    @ Julia — We still have everyone’s bios on the About page, we took the little widget with faces that was in the footer down about a year ago because it couldn’t fit all the bylines and still look decent on mobile.

  40. @ Malc — I appreciate you reading and your concern, so let me maybe share a little bit of background, in addition to what Tiffany has said, since you’ve brought this up a few times. We have no problems acknowledging James has left, and have done so several times before (including in comments to you).

    James is a great guy, and I have a lot of respect for him, and I’m excited for the opportunity he has. I mean that from the bottom of my heart. He did what was best for him, and I can’t fault him for that. TPG has venture capital money that they can throw at all kinds of ideas, and even if they lose money on most of those concepts it’s fine, because they’re just after market share.

    Just look at what they’ve done in the miles & points space. They try to get just about everyone writing for them, simply so they don’t write elsewhere. It’s their way of trying to eliminate competition.

    That’s of course their prerogative, even if it makes me sad how they’ve largely ruined this space, in my opinion. But that’s just how it is.

    All that being said, I’m sure you can appreciate that I’m not actively going to promote what they’re doing. We were as caught off guard by all this as anyone else.

  41. @Lucky

    That was the most passive-aggressive written equivalent of bitchslap I have ever read on this site. The shade, the equisite shade of it all.

  42. @lucky – interesting, must say I’ve never read anything by TPG. IMO in the UK they’ll have a hard time breaking into the excellent coverage provided by Head for Points!

  43. @Lucky — Fair enough, and I’m sorry I missed your reply to another comment I’d made. It just seemed odd that there was this silence, and occasionally people were asking where James had gone. I had to find out via Google. But of course your answer makes complete sense – as Tiffany suggests, it’d have been awkward to announce it. Strikes me as a bit of a damned-if-you-do/damned-if-you-don’t situation. At any rate, it was nice to have him for a while … but I’m sticking with you.

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