May 31 was International Flight Attendant Day, and while the holiday was celebrated in some circumstances with a trending hashtag, an airline announced a major staff policy.
As of that Tuesday in 2022, Virgin Atlantic revealed news that marked the occasion that the company has relaxed certain tattoo restrictions for their cabin crew and uniformed colleagues.
The move is said to mark the first time an airline has permitted this gesture; Virgin Atlantic is also claimed to be the first airline within the United Kingdom to do so.
In a requested media statement, Estelle Hollingsworth, chief people officer at Virgin Atlantic, commented on the policy change.
“At Virgin Atlantic, we want everyone to be themselves and know that they belong. Many people use tattoos to express their unique identities and our customer-facing and uniformed colleagues should not be excluded from doing so if they choose,” said Hollingsworth. “That’s why, in line with our focus on inclusion and championing individuality, we’re relaxing our tattoo restrictions for all our people. We’re proud to be the airline that sees the world differently and allows our people to truly be themselves.”
News about the policy change was shared via Virgin Atlantic’s Twitter, TikTok, Facebook and Instagram on May 31. Up until May 31, Virgin Atlantic’s policies dictated that any uniformed employee was required cover up any visible tattoo with a long sleeved shirt, plasters or makeup. (In May 2019, the airline also dropped its policy on requiring female cabin crew members to wear makeup and instead permitted them to wear trousers in place of skirts.)
Still, tattoos that are offensive must remain covered up. Neck, face and head tattoos also must still be covered. Yet an email from Virgin Atlantic on this announcement also said that “this is currently under review and we hope to change this policy in phase two.”
Two Virgin Atlantic crew members, who have tattoos, spoke publicly about the change.
“I was so excited to hear the news about the change in the tattoo policy, especially as it’s just before my first flight,” said Josie Hopkins, a new employee. “Having worked for another airline previously and other jobs where my tattoos had to be covered, it felt like I wasn’t allowed to be myself. I love that we are encouraged to express ourselves and break stereotypes and I hope others follow suit.”
Crew member Terry Nunn’s tattoos are of different London landmarks. “When we have customers onboard and are visiting London for the first time, I like to share with them any tips/secrets on the best places to eat/see in the capital,” said Nunn. “Now I can show them my tattoos too!”
The Virgin Atlantic policy change on arm tattoos comes at a time for Virgin Atlantic having undergone a major hiring spree and the introduction of an Austin-London route having started on May 26, 2022 and an Edinburgh to Orlando route on March 30.
In April 2022, the Richard Branson founded airline unveiled a new promotional campaign celebrating the individuality of its employees and customers and ending with the line, “See the world differently.”