Virgin Atlantic job applications double after male crew allowed to wear skirts

Virgin Atlantic - Joe Pepler/PinPep
Virgin Atlantic - Joe Pepler/PinPep

Virgin Atlantic job applications have doubled since the airline changed its dress code to allow male crew to wear skirts.

Shai Weiss, Virgin's chief executive, said that there had been a 100pc rise in candidates after it dropped requirements for staff to wear “gendered uniform options”.

As well as allowing male staff to wear skirts and female counterparts trousers, the need for cabin crew to wear make-up was removed and a ban on displaying tattoos was overturned. Gender-neutral pronouns were also introduced as part of Virgin's “See the world differently” campaign.

Mr Weiss said that the reforms to the historically more conservative industry had been a “tremendous” help as airlines grapple with a red-hot labour market.

“We saw a 100pc uplift in applicants following the campaign, ‘See the world differently’,” he told The Telegraph, on board Virgin Atlantic’s inaugural flight from Heathrow to Tampa.

Virgin Atlantic - Joe Pepler/PinPep
Virgin Atlantic - Joe Pepler/PinPep

Unlike many of its rivals, Mr Weiss said that Virgin was not struggling to fill vacancies after being forced into radical cost-cutting measures during the pandemic.

The wider aviation sector was accused by ministers of failing to “gear up” ahead of surging demand for air travel this summer. The first full summer season since 2019 was marred by cancellations, disruption and chaotic scenes at airports as bosses lamented a lack of staff.

Staff shortages in the UK were replicated among airports and airlines on the continent. Having been laid off during the pandemic, many cabin and ground crew switched jobs and preferred not to return when Covid travel restrictions were eased.

Requests to add aviation workers to the UK’s shortage occupation list fell on deaf ears in Westminster earlier this year. Hopes remain among bosses, however, that the visa system will be changed to allow a greater number of EU migrants to fill employee shortfalls.

Virgin Atlantic - Joe Pepler/PinPep
Virgin Atlantic - Joe Pepler/PinPep

Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary last week lamented the UK’s approach, saying the budget airline was left in the “bizarre situation” of being given visas by the Home Office to bring in people from Morocco and Turkey – not from the EU.

Virgin Atlantic’s bitter rival British Airways is racing to hire 4,000 new staff before next summer. This year the UK flag carrier was forced to set up an overseas base for short-haul flights for the first time in its history and offered trained cabin crew at competitors a £1,000 welcome bonus as it struggled with employee shortages.

Mr Weiss said: “When we get 10 applicants for every job – we’re in a really good position.

“Short-haul pilots want to be long-haul pilots. And long-haul pilots want to be Virgin Atlantic pilots.”

Heathrow airport said last week that it needed to add around 7,500 new members of staff before next summer.

Germany’s Lufthansa, meanwhile, announced on Tuesday that salaries for new starters would rise by almost a fifth to woo people into its ranks.