Virgin Atlantic and Flybe display different attitudes to female crew – Alastair Dalton

Two airlines. Two announcements. Two jarringly different signals as to how they regard female cabin crew.

The carriers I’m talking about, Virgin Atlantic and Flybe, are both expanding in Scotland, the former now flying to Barbados as well as resuming its long-established Orlando route last month.

Meantime, the latter has returned to the skies under new management, somewhat against the odds after going bust at the start of the Covid pandemic, with its first Scottish flight taking off from Glasgow to Belfast City last Thursday.

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It just so happened that the same day, Virgin Atlantic announced a new marketing campaign that highlighted front-line staff like cabin crew as being a key part of its operation.

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The airline said: “The campaign will champion the rich individuality of the airline’s people and customers, building on research showing that travellers find most airlines’ crew to be impersonal in their service.

"In contrast, Virgin Atlantic crew are encouraged to be their true selves on board and on the ground. They don’t follow a script and are seen to offer a more personal touch.”

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It rightly put the spotlight on highly trained staff such as cabin crew who are there to do far more than just to serve passengers drinks, and could save your life in an emergency.

The theme was also highly significant in an industry with such a traditionally sexist hierarchy, topped by pilots who were largely male, with predominantly female cabin crew characterised as having much more subservient roles.

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Virgin Atlantic's new advertising campaign cherishes the individuality of its staff

So how does the new Flybe view them?

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Shockingly, the publicity I received from the airline about their inaugural flights seemed to relegate cabin crew to being unnamed photographic props.

A picture issued by Flybe that was taken before its first Glasgow-Belfast City service took off showed four people beside the aircraft.

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It was captioned: “Flybe’s chief executive, Dave Pflieger, Glasgow Airport’s operations director, Ronald Leitch, and two members of crew.”

Flybe chief executive Dave Pflieger, Glasgow Airport operations director Ronald Leitch and "two members of crew" [Lisa Dooey and Mimi Bibi] which Flybe failed to name
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So those female staff did not warrant being named?

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They are not named either in a separate photograph of the event on the Glasgow Airport website, unlike the two men. I had to request the crew’s names – they are Lisa Dooey and Mimi Bibi.

The previous day, one of the publicity photos for the airline’s debut flight, from Birmingham to Belfast City, showed the Belfast airport’s chief executive Matthew Hall and the first passenger, Andre Squire, standing either side of another unnamed female crew member.

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No name was provided for the Flybe crew member standing between Belfast City Airport chief executive Matthew Hall and first passenger Andre Squire. Picture: Kelvin Boyes

The publicity firm issuing the photo on behalf of Flybe said the woman’s name “was not confirmed prior to issuing”. But they managed to get the male passenger’s name.

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It just happens that Virgin Atlantic were originally among investors planning to take over Flybe while it was in the financial doldrums prior to its collapse.

I wonder what those in charge of the former’s new staff-centred campaign think about the way cabin crew at Flybe are treated?

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It’s hardly the “rich individuality of the airline’s people” that is being cherished – because they don’t even seem to be given the respect of being referred to by name.



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