June 13, 2024

Be yourself

DE&I is top of the agenda for Virgin Atlantic, both for its own people and its customers. We checked in with Nicki Goldsmith, Director of Agency Sales

In a nutshell, how would you describe Virgin Atlantic’s approach to DE&I?

Our purpose is that everyone can take on the world and we live by that. For us, it’s the reason why our brand exists and the impact we seek to have on people’s lives and in the world they live in. We champion difference and individuality, and it’s by encouraging all our people to truly be themselves at work that we uphold an inclusive environment where they each can thrive.

What key initiatives have you put into place to support DE&I?

Last year, we updated our uniform policy to allow our people to choose the uniform that best represents them, rolling out pronoun badges at the same time. This work connected our people and customers as we also updated our ticketing systems and Flying Club accounts to allow non-binary passport holders to select U or X gender codes, as well as gender neutral titles. Additionally, we relaxed our tattoo policy for all people including customer-facing teams. Back in 2019, we also made the decision to remove mandatory make up for cabin crew and introduce a choice of heels or flats and skirts or trousers, which was an industry first. We have four belonging networks – DEN, Scarlett, Pride and VALUED. Each network has an exec ally, which is close to that person’s heart and so consequently, they help to also raise awareness and change mindsets. We’ve also launched inclusivity e-learning for colleagues across the airline and to partners within destinations such as the Caribbean where there are still barriers to LGBTQ+ equality.

How do you demonstrate your strong focus on DE&I to your corporate customers?

In March we launched Virgin Atlantic for Business – the new face of corporate travel that embraces the dynamism of business today. We’re bringing a fresh focus to the way we recognise and empower decision-makers who manage the modern business traveller’s needs. Built for those who want to be part of, and help pilot, the new positive commercial landscape, it’s about creating a brilliantly different travel experience for the individual and a more sustainable, inclusive and diverse industry for all of us and making sure our partners have the right content and tools to book Virgin Atlantic. Our recent advertising campaign, ‘See the World Differently’, set to the song ‘I am what I am’ epitomises everything about Virgin Atlantic. It’s centred around a sense of belonging, inclusion, and diversity of perspective – in everything we do.

Are you asked about your approach to DE&I in RFPs?

DE&I is increasingly prevalent in the RFPs we are participating in. Corporate clients recognise the importance of partnering with those suppliers who are taking action on important global issues such as DE&I and sustainability.

Why is it so important for an airline to embrace DE&I?

Whilst there’s so much to celebrate, we have a lot of work to do as an industry. We know that over 40% of young people are put off a career in aviation because of a lack of diversity and visible role models. That number increases to two thirds for those from ethnically-diverse backgrounds.Representation matters and we still have too few visible senior role models. It’s vital that we continue to champion diversity to see this change. Careers take time to develop and we need to do more to raise awareness of the industry and career paths within aviation, and the fact that it’s changing. Initiatives like our Passport to Change programme, which aims to inspire young people to consider a career in STEM subjects, are so critical.