Virgin Atlantic flies the flag for diversity with new icons

After 35 years and God knows how many air miles, Virgin Atlantic has decided to retire its famous Flying Lady mascot. In her place, the airline will roll out a range of five diverse icons that better represent its customers and workforce.

Frequent flyers will be aware that the Flying Lady mascot depicted a pin-up style redheaded woman swooping through the air, trailing a Union Jack that seemed to be tugging off her dress. Inspired by the second world war pin-ups and vintage posters of Peruvian painter Aleberto Vargas, the Flying Lady could arguably be seen as something of a retrograde design.

Virgin Atlantic hopes that the new set of characters, which include a gay man, a black woman and an Asian woman, will tie into its ambition of establishing a gender and diversity balance in the workplace. And with these characters, Virgin Atlantic nails its colours to the mast in terms of supporting people of all sexualities.

The new icons will make their debut on Virgin Atlantic's new Airbus A350-1000 fleet, which is due to launch later in the year. Take a look at the full set of mascots by clicking left to right in the gallery below.

This isn't the first step Virgin Atlantic has taken recently towards establishing a more balanced workplace. Earlier in the year it announced that female cabin crew would no longer be required to wear makeup. What's more, female stewards would be provided with trousers as part of their standard uniform. It feels overdue, but at least it's progress.

But do these mascots stick the landing? Its intention is admirable, but is Virgin Atlantic making the minimum amount of effort by still using toned, athletic mascots who still look fairly pin-up-y on the sides of its planes? On top of this, the coincidental inclusion of a black icon on a plane called Cool Runner has done little to promote the airline's progressive message in some people's eyes.

If Virgin Atlantic was going for a truly diverse set of mascots, then where are the different body types? The different ages? A mascot of a middle aged person with a beer belly might not be to everyone's taste, but it would sure give us a smile while boarding.

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Dom Carter

Dom Carter is a freelance writer who specialises in art and design. Formerly a staff writer for Creative Bloq, his work has also appeared on Creative Boom and in the pages of ImagineFX, Computer Arts, 3D World, and .net. He has been a D&AD New Blood judge, and has a particular interest in picture books.