Virgin Atlantic has joined the celebrations of the 2021 International Women’s day by naming two of its Airbus A350 aircraft in honour of two iconic women. One aircraft, named ‘Lady Emmeline’ pays homage to the founder of the Suffragette movement and women’s rights activist, Emmeline Pankhurst. As the leader of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), Pankhurst’s political campaigning was instrumental in securing women in the UK the right to vote at the turn of the last century. All charitable donations received on-board Lady Emmeline will be distributed to a selection of women’s charities, when the plane enters service next year.
Registered as G-VLIB, the A350 is due to commence flying in April 2022 and will operate on a number of the airline’s leisure routes, flying holidaymakers to destinations including Orlando, Antigua and Barbados.
A second A350 will named ‘Fearless Lady’ and registered as G-VEVE, in celebration of Eve Branson, the mother of the airline’s founder, Sir Richard Branson, after she passed away in January. Described as “an entrepreneur before the word existed”, Eve led a colourful life which included enlisting in the WRENS during World War II, taking gliding lessons disguised as a boy, and working as an air hostess on the treacherous British South American Airways routes. More recently, she founded the Eve Branson Foundation, which aims to improve the lives of women and young girls in the Atlas Mountains, as well as providing education and healthcare to those in need.
Estelle Hollingsworth, chief people officer at Virgin Atlantic, commented, “We’re delighted to be celebrating two fearless females this International Women’s Day. Having their names emblazoned on the side of our planes will act as a lasting reminder of their spirit and the determination to drive positive change that both of these exceptional women encompassed.
“Today, we will also be celebrating our own women in aviation. We are focused on being a fair, diverse and inclusive employer that attracts the best talent, regardless of gender. We’re committed to creating an environment that allows women to thrive in the workplace, by ensuring we have a gender balance in leadership positions, as well as creating a framework for future talent to flourish,” she added.
Recently, the airline updated its famous Flying Ladies, which adorn the side of its planes. The new high-flyers include a diverse range of men and women who represent modern Britain and can be seen across the airline’s fleet of A350s. In addition, Virgin Atlantic has introduced a flexible make-up and uniform policy, whereby staff can choose not to wear make-up and heels, or to wear trousers in place of skirts.
Last year, Virgin Atlantic undertook a partnership with the Barbie toy brand, to showcase the variety of aviation careers available to young children. The dolls included a pilot and an engineer – roles that are typically under-represented by women.