Virgin Atlantic will soon be updating its airplanes and replacing their iconic Varga Girl with a more diverse lineup of figures.
The Varga Girl — a white, typically dark-haired woman — adorned the British airline’s fleet of planes for the last 35 years. She was depicted in a form-fitting red dress that unpeeled to reveal the Union Jack.
She was based on Alberto Vargas’s pin-up illustrations during World War II.
The airline, however, is now retiring her in favor of a more diverse lineup, including a gay man, a black man and woman, and an Asian woman. They will still be wearing red outfits and Union Jack capes.
With the gay male icon, his red outfit blends into a rainbow at the bottom.
‘The saying goes “You can’t be what you can’t see” and that has never been truer than the aviation industry’s glamorous image in the past,’ said Nikki Humphrey, senior vice president of people at the company.
The company wants to be more inviting not only to all travelers, but employees as well.
Humphrey continued: ‘By introducing our new flying icons, I hope it encourages people from all backgrounds to feel at home flying with us, but also working with us.’
Virgin Atlantic’s promised to achieve gender equality in the company, as well as 12% black, Asian and minority ethnic group representation by 2022.
What’s in a name?
These new icons will start appearing later this year, when the company adds new long-haul A350 planes. Further, the planes will also earn some new names like Rain Bow and Mamma Mia.
Old stalwarts like Hot Lips and Barbarella will also continue to operate.
These changes are mostly being met with praise and approval. The names, however, have caused some raised eyebrows.
‘Putting the black icon on a plane called Cool Runner sounds like a tired trope that predictably links black people to ‘urban’ culture and entertainment, and betrays exactly the kind of stereotypical thinking Virgin claims it’s trying to change,’ commented author Afua Hirsch.
This isn’t the only progressive change Virgin Atlantic has introduced recently.
Last month, the company announced make-up would no longer be required female crew members. They will also start providing pants as a uniform option instead of only skirts.