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Bonza leads the way in aviation’s gender-neutral push

Virgin Atlantic caused a stir when it announced a gender-neutral uniform policy last week, but a new Australian budget airline did it quietly first.

Bonza, which is still awaiting regulatory approval from the Civil Aviation Safety Authority before it can operate in Australia, unveiled its ‘mix and match’ unified options in June.

With Bonza cabin crew ready to wear whatever uniform option they want, regardless of gender, the pressure is on other Australian airlines to update their style.

refurbish Bonza

Bonza Chief Commercial Officer Carly Povey told: UKTN newspaper the relaxed uniform policy is all about bringing positive change to Australian aviation.

“We felt that aviation uniforms are the country that time forgot, so we wanted to create something modern that would allow our onboard legends and cabin crew to be themselves at work – that’s why we launched our non-gender uniforms in June of this year,” she said.

There is no grooming guide for Bonza cabin crew, pilots, operations center and office workers, who can style different looks depending on where they are traveling to, their mood on the day and personalities.

When Bonza announced his dress code, Ms. Povey said the airline is “for many, not for few”.

Bonza has a relaxed uniform code for her staff. Photos: Bonza

“We won’t dictate what lipstick you should wear — or whether you should wear lipstick at all. We won’t ask the crew to cover up their tattoos and just because you’re a woman doesn’t mean you have to wear a skirt,” she said.

“If you’re non-binary, pregnant, working in the office or on board, we’ve got options for you.”

Pilot uniforms will be a bit more strict, with a crisp white button-up shirt, tailored trousers and a charcoal blazer with silver stripes, but in a break with tradition there will be no pilot hat, which Bonza says will help pass on savings to customers.

British airline goes gender neutral

British airline Virgin Atlantic has followed in Bonza’s footsteps and launched a campaign on Wednesday to promote an updated gender identity policy and remove gender-based uniforms.

All Virgin Atlantic crew, pilots and ground teams can choose between the airline’s Vivienne Westwood-designed red skirt and burgundy pant uniforms.

This follows previous rule changes, which made makeup optional and allowed visible tattoos for crew members and frontline personnel.

In addition to the unified policy, Virgin Atlantic is also introducing optional pronoun badges for staff and passengers, and changes its ticketing systems to allow passengers with passports with gender-neutral gender markings ‘U’ or ‘X’ gender codes on their booking and the gender-neutral title ‘Mx’.

Currently, only a small number of countries offer passports with more than the two binary gender options, including Australia, the US, Argentina and Pakistan.

Virgin Atlantic’s ‘wake up’ move sparked some online criticism, but RuPaul’s Drag Race Judge Michelle Visage, who leads the airline’s new campaign, said people feel empowered when they wear what represents them best.

Airlines are rethinking uniforms

The unified policy of Bonza and Virgin Atlantic is a major change from the airline industry’s famously strict regulations.

Men usually wear pants while women wear skirts or dresses along with heels and makeup.

But recent years, when there have been many public discussions about gender identity, have led to a minor revolution in aviation workwear, especially for women.

Last year, Ukrainian airline SkyUp updated its women’s uniform with white Nike sneakers and a loose orange trouser suit.

Other international airlines that allow female staff to wear trousers include Etihad Airways and Japan Airlines.

Bonza and Virgin Atlantic seem to be among the first to step into truly gender neutral territory.

Others may soon follow suit. In February, the Australian Services Union called on Qantas to update its unified policy to reflect more LGBTQI+-friendly standards.

On Monday, a Qantas Group spokesperson said: TND it is still in the process of revising the unified guide and has previously made changes based on feedback from the staff.

“Qantas and Jetstar are committed to promoting diversity and inclusion in all areas of our business,” the spokesperson said.

Virgin Australia, which launched a new diversity and inclusion strategy ‘Belonging’ earlier this year, has not confirmed whether it is considering updating its unified policy.

A spokesperson told TND “diversity and inclusion are at the heart” of who the company is.

“We strive to attract and engage a diverse group of people who represent the communities in which we live, work and fly.”

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