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Virgin Atlantic Makes History With New Change to Employee Dress Code

Many industries and companies have made major progress when it comes to what is and isn’t deemed acceptable for employees to wear to work in recent years.

Steve Parsons – PA Images | Getty Images

Starbucks, for example, began allowing employees to dye their hair bright colors as of a few years ago, while Walmart recently announced that it would begin testing a policy that allows employees to wear any solid colored shirt or blue jeans to work.

However, one industry has maintained strict dress codes, particularly the widespread ban on visible tattoos while in uniform — the airline industry.

Virgin Atlantic made a major move this week to allow flight attendants to have visible tattoos while on the clock, including body art on the face, neck and hands.

The historic decision makes Virgin the first UK-based airline to rescind the no-tattoos policy, marking a change that could set the precedent for other airlines in the future.

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“At Virgin Atlantic, we want everyone to be themselves and know that they belong,” says Estelle Hollingsworth, chief people officer at Virgin Atlantic. “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. 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.”

The airline’s uniforms are unorthodox to begin with, famous for their bright red hues for women crew members and a suave burgundy-colored version for men.

Virgin Atlantic joins U.S.-based airline United in allowing tattoos to be visible while on the clock after United revised its policy last spring.

The caveat, however, is that visible tattoos must be smaller than the employees’ work badge.

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Most other major U.S. airlines, including JetBlue, American Airlines and Delta, do not permit flight attendants to have visible tattoos while in uniform.

Dubai-based airline Emirates also has a strict policy against visible tattoos while working.

Virgin Atlantic had a rough go of it during the pandemic, as the international airline took a massive hit due to travel restrictions and other Covid-related setbacks to the industry, with the company filing for Chapter 15 bankruptcy protection in the summer of 2020.

However, things appear to be on the upswing for the airline after a strong Q1 of 2022, with flight levels expected to be back to pre-pandemic levels by the end of this summer.

The airline is reportedly expected to IPO this year.

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