Virgin Atlantic Replaces Flying Lady With “Flying Icons”

Filed Under: Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Atlantic has just announced a significant change to one of their biggest icons. If you’ve ever seen a Virgin Atlantic plane, you’ve probably noticed that the “Flying Lady” is painted right near the nose.

Virgin Atlantic 747

Virgin Atlantic has had the Flying Lady on the nose of all planes for more than 30 years, and it’s based on the pin-up girls made famous in the 1930s and 1940s by Alberto Vargas.

Well, she’s about to be replaced.

Virgin Atlantic’s push for inclusiveness

Virgin Atlantic has been working hard to tackle the gender pay gap and increase diversity and inclusion across its business. The airline aims to have a 50:50 gender balance in leadership roles, and is aiming for at least 12% black, Asian, and minority ethic group representation across the company by 2022.

As Virgin Atlantic’s SVP of People, Nikki Humphrey describes it:

“The saying goes ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’ and that has never been truer than the aviation industry’s glamourous image in the past.

We have been working for a number of years to tackle our gender pay gap, create an inclusive workplace and increase the diversity of our workforce, through the development of our Springboard scheme for women, as well as the launch of engineering apprenticeships. By introducing our new Flying Icons I hope it encourages people from all backgrounds to feel at home flying with us, but also working with us.”

Hello to the Virgin Icons!

That brings us to Virgin Atlantic’s latest change. Virgin Atlantic will be replacing the Flying Lady with Flying Icons. With Virgin Atlantic’s upcoming A350-1000s, the airline will instead be painting both men and women of different backgrounds on the nose of planes.

Here are some of the designs they’ll be using:

Now, interestingly Virgin Atlantic announced this through some channels on April 1, which maybe wasn’t the ideal day to do so, since many wondered if this was in fact an April Fools’ joke. It’s not.

My take

I think this is a cool idea. Is it absolutely necessary, and will it change anything overnight? Of course not. Was the old Flying Lady sexist? I think that’s open to interpretation, though certainly opinions have changed over the decades.

But the bigger picture here is that if you can be inclusive and show different concepts, what’s the downside? Is anyone harmed/offended by a bit more diversity in the art on Virgin Atlantic planes? Hopefully not. Could a little kid of a different background see someone who looks more like them, and think it’s cool? Hopefully.

So many of the things that cause inequality in the world come from constant, subtle suggestions that only a certain type of person can do something. Personally I think Virgin Atlantic deserves a lot of credit for their overall push for inclusiveness. This is a very small part of that.

  1. I like the idea. But honestly the flying men look a bit weird to me. If I saw this at the airport (and didn’t know the context), it would be a bit strange. But I appreciate the thought. This is just my take though.

    And anyone notice that the second pic Male has a LGBT colored flag as shorts? I’m guessing that’s intentional?

  2. What on earth is wrong with appreciating and respecting history? Pin up girls on the front of planes were made famous by world war II and were drawn on to planes full of men who were flying off to face almost certain death, with some of the highest mortality rates of the war. RAF bombers had an almost 45% death rate for their tour of duty. I have yet to fly VS but I always appreciated that little touch and nod to aviation history. This is change just for the sake of change.

  3. its maybe richard, he s gone into a pickle since we said we are leaving the EU, , its a joke by the way, Its just another way of getting advertisements,by stupid idea,s

  4. Painting a pinup girl on a plane was a tradition. The new designs are laughably stupid and ugly — if you don’t want a pinup girl, then just get rid of them altogether.

  5. Thank God we still have the Gulf Carriers who hold up traditional values that have been the base for the success & development of civilization… Oh I nearly forgot, even Qatar Airways owned Air Italy sponsored the Pride Parade and Korea’s Asiana Airlines has recently bowed to these stupid new trends, at least they are already feeling the naturally following financial struggle.

    So what’s left? Looks like only Latin American, Russian, Turkish, Saudi, Chinese and Japanese Airlines.

  6. I don’t know. I guess it depends if its becomes “iconic” If the iconic status is achieved, then I think it should stay the way it is. When United replaced the tulip with the the horrendous globe, it lost its recognizable iconic branding. When American replaced the eagle with what not looks like a can opener, it lost it’s branding. Sure, flying lady is not Virgin’s logo, but is still part of branding. There is a reason it was called the “flying lady”, I guess it is mostly due to airplanes being referred as a she, from olden days of ships. Also the tradition of naming planes women name and some kind of lady paint job from WWII. The change from Virgin is minimal, look wise. But the gender change, it actually a lot in that context. I prefer smaller variations, but I guess other don’t see it that way.

  7. Not only will this not change anything overnight, this won’t change anything ever. In any case, can you imagine having such a fragile sense of self that you feel oppressed by a plane logo?

  8. So only the White boy is gay? No gay Blacks, or Latinos? Or LadyBoys? Or Lesbians? Or Trans? How is this BS inclusion?

    How about a straight business man, any color? How come they aren’t included?

  9. @David:

    Can you imagine having such a fragile sense of self that an airline including different genders, sexual orientations, and ethnicities in a plane logo makes you question your own masculinity and run to the internet to whinge about it?

  10. If someone didn’t know the full story, they’d assume the airline might be sponsoring the UK National Gymnastics team…

  11. Sorry Virgin Atlantic, but the Flying Ladies are undoubtedly iconic and I don’t think they could ever replaced.
    I see what VS is trying to do here, but doesn’t work at all. The flying guys look really strange. You just can’t replace an industry icon. It’s that simple.

  12. Virgin Atlantic has a long history of elaborate April Fools Day pranks. My guess is they rolled this out as a joke and people actually took them seriously.

  13. @ DaninMCI — A Virgin Atlantic spokesperson has confirmed with me that this is serious.

  14. The downside? We as passengers will be paying for those new paint jobs that have absolutely no value to anyone but the flakiest of snowflakes who get offended by VA’s logo is what.

    This is a classic case of solution looking for a problem.

  15. Where about do you draw the line tho? Do we have one with a transgender flag? Do we have a non binary flying person? Gender questioning? And the same goes for every race. The airline wouldn’t have enough planes! I believe everyone is equal and don’t “see” race, gender or sexuality so we should either have the FLYING LADY or not.

  16. The sheer amount of straight white male incel rage in this comment section is hilarious. Also a special lol to @Thanh who is very concerned about the costs of a livery change being passed onto customers but has probably never complained about it before in any of Ben’s other posts about (far more widespread and expensive) livery changes for United, Alitalia, Air Canada, Alaska, etc.

    I’m pretty sure you guys better get going– Tucker Carlson’s show will be on soon!

  17. The old flying lady was not sexist. Anyone who thinks it is needs to grow up and stop being so offended over everything.

  18. Why is the gay guy white? Why can’t he be any other race? And why is he in such good shape? Oh yah cuz I’m the gay community only fit white guys are accepted. smh

  19. Nick. It isn’t straight white rage, it is a reaction to this general social justice reaction to tear down anything that appears like it might offend anyone, or may appear progressive to change, without ever stopping to ask why it is the way it is, or if a factor of many multiples more people might in fact like it just the way it is. I think a British airline paying homage to the almost 60,000 people who died in bombers, many of which sporting the image of a pin up girl on their nose, is a powerful reminder of the sacrifices that have been made to get us where we are today.

    Certainly no one living today is having to face getting on an airplane with an almost 1 in 2 chance that eventually you won’t be getting off on the other side alive. The fact we are having this discussion at all shows how great we have it. Not that we can’t improve, can’t treat each other better, can’t improve on our biases and combat prejudices, but that we don’t need to take a axe to the past to do it.

  20. I am simply wondering why we are not seeing
    1) Flying Asians
    2) Males and females in traditional outfits appropriate to their religion and culture
    3) Overweight males and females to connect with typical customers

  21. Cue the conservative snowflakes raging about ‘political correctness run amok’ and ‘respecting history’ without even understanding the changes being made. No one was offended by the Flying Lady and as you can plainly see in Luckys post, there will still be Flying Ladies. They’re just adding different characters to more accurately reflect their employees and customers. The design and location of the Flying Icons can still pay homage to WWII bombers even if the lady doesn’t look the same.

  22. “The airline aims to have a 50:50 gender balance in leadership roles” I fully applaud any moves a company takes to become more inclusive. As a genuine question though if the aim is complete equality and inclusivity, should the company not aim to have a 50:50 gender balance throughout, and therefore also look to increase the number male staff in roles or departments which have a high proportion of women?

  23. You know the equality movement is going way too far. Men a now scared as shit to do anything, even looking is wrong. If this doesn’t stop in 50 years men will all be in jail.

    And yes I support sexual equality. I will not stop representing LGBTQ until ALL Virgin planes have at least
    1. Flying Lady
    1. Flying Men
    1. Flying Lesbian
    1. Flying Gay
    1. Flying Bisexual
    1. Flying Transgender
    1. Flying Queer

    More gender is welcomed.


    Now, what about race??? Do we need 7 from each race? How many race should we include?? Will combination 35 Flying ‘xx’ enough for representation and inclusion??


  24. All airplanes deserve names and nose art, and the nose art should relate in someway to the name of the plane!!! Ships and boats have names. It’s only fair that planes do, too. It is ridiculous that 99% of airplanes get stuck with only an impersonal tail number. C’mon man.

    Am I the only one who thinks its funny that the so-called “Flying Icons” are just as sexist as the Flying Lady, if not more so. If you don’t see it, well… The Black lady is the hottest of the bunch.

  25. Where does PC stop…if it ever does? The next icon that could go down might be the Statue of Liberty! Of course, France would have to build a bunch more to welcome every VS flight into JFK/EWR.

  26. They need more than 5.

    They are missing an Asian man. They are missing a very dark Black person. They are missing a Sikh with a turban. They are missing a pre-op transgender person with a bulge in the genital region, like a man, but with breasts and traditionally female makeup. They are missing a handicapped person with one leg.

  27. All these images should be removed. From objectifying women, Virgin is now doing the same to men!! Two wrongs definitely do not make a right.

    Have to say that the female bashing on this subject is extraordinary. You do know that you are saying it’s OK for your mothers, sisters, daughters, wives, etc to be treated without respect, don’t you?

    Instead of getting all up in arms because your “liberties” are being taken away, think about your female loved ones who may have been subjected to some “harmless fun” over the years. You may not know the women who have publicly come forward with stories about abuse, but I can guarantee you know someone who hasn’t.

  28. @Lucky

    Evidently you’ve adopted a hands-off approach to the comments section and decided to give it over to the 4chan dregs.

    There are far too many options for content like this for me to support a gay man who’s willing to debase himself like this for clicks. I’m embarrassed for you.

  29. @Jo145

    You are a big hypocrite.

    Did you just discriminate against a dodo? PETA and WWF would not be happy about this.

    You do know that you are saying it’s OK for your PETS OR ANIMALS to be treated without respect, don’t you?

    Instead of getting all up in arms because your “liberties” are being taken away, think about your PETS who may have been subjected to some “harmless fun” over the years.

    You may not know the ANIMALS who have been abuse, but I can guarantee you know someone who hasn’t.


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