Airline bans gender-neutral uniforms on World Cup flight
Virgin Atlantic has reversed its gender-neutral uniform policy for cabin crew flying the England team to the World Cup in Qatar. Although the squad still flew aboard the airline’s ‘Gay Pride’ jet, crossdressing will only be allowed on flights to “more accepting” countries, the airline said.
Gareth Southgate’s squad touched down in Doha on Tuesday, on a specially chartered Virgin Atlantic flight from Birmingham. For the one-off flight, the airline told several British media outlets that it suspended its gender identity policy and instructed crew members to dress in the appropriate uniform for their gender.
“As part of our policy, we complete a risk assessment on all countries we fly to, considering laws and attitudes towards the LGBTQ+ community and expressions of identity on a case-by-case basis,” the statement read. “Following a risk assessment, it was recommended the policy was not applied on today’s charter flight to ensure the safety of our people.”
Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar, and same-sex intercourse is punishable by up to seven years’ imprisonment.
Virgin Atlantic updated its ‘Gender Identity Policy’ in September, allowing male flight attendants to wear female uniforms and vice versa. Staff were also given the option of wearing “pronoun badges,” and subjected to “mandatory inclusivity training,” according to a press release.
While this new “fluid approach” was portrayed as applying to all routes, Virgin Atlantic explained on Tuesday that it would initially be rolled out on flights to and from the US, UK, and Israel, as “those countries are more accepting of non-binary identities.”
Despite the policy walkback, the England team still flew to Doha aboard the ‘Rain Bow’, an Airbus A350 bearing the image of a flying man in rainbow-colored sneakers holding a Union Jack. The UK is not the only country bringing a pro-LGBT message to Qatar, with the US modifying its team’s crest to incorporate the colors of the gay pride flag.
While Qatar has insisted that all fans would be welcomed to the World Cup “without discrimination,” an ambassador for the tournament, former Qatari national player Khalid Salman, told a German reporter last week that he considered homosexuality a “damage in the mind” that causes “spiritual harm.”