Insider Talk: Being Gay at Virgin America


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Does Virgin America have any groups or organizations for LGBTA employees?

Morehead: As a new airline, Virgin America is serious about building community, both in our internal operations and in the communities where we work.  As part of our initiatives to ensure that all teammates are offered an equal and positive work environment, Virgin America is in the process of forming an LGBT Advisory Team led by teammate volunteers.  The standing committee plans to be devoted to improving climate and diversity within Virgin America and throughout the communities that we serve via collaboration with leaders, departments, and other groups within the company.  To date we have received a lot of positive feedback in this area.  We’ve been named one of the best places to work by the HRC and voted best airline by and Planet Out for our welcoming environment.

Does Virgin America offer benefits to employees in domestic partners relationships?

Morehead: Virgin America is an equal opportunity employer and does not discriminate based on gender, sexuality, race, religion, or disability.  In 2010, the HRC named Virgin America one of the best places to work for LGBT community members for our inclusive benefits plan, non-discrimination policies, anti-discrimination training, and marketing efforts. You can read more about our benefits here.

Does Virgin America cater to the LGBT community in regards to travel?  If so, what does Virgin do to target and reach the LGBT demographic?

Morehead: With headquarters in the San Francisco Bay Area, Virgin America has and continues to support the LGBT community both within our company and in the area.  Specifically in terms of marketing, we advertise in LGBT outlets and sponsor LGBT organizations such as San Francisco Pride, where we have served as the Official Airline for the past several years, helping to fly in parade participants from all over the country to celebrate with the rest of the Bay Area. 

What is the general attitude towards LGBT people in the airline industry? 

Morehead: We equally welcome and appreciate LGBT team members and all team members at Virgin America for their unique contributions to making this airline great.

How does Virgin America compare with other airlines in terms of how it addresses LGBT issues?

Morehead: We don’t really compare ourselves to others, but we really strive to create an open and positive work environment at Virgin America, and I think as a result, we’re known for our efforts in this area.

Do you have any suggestions for how people who don’t have an LGBT organization in their companies could go about starting one within the company?

Morehead: The great thing about our society is that change can come from any place; it can start at the top with the leadership or it can organically grow within.  At Virgin America we were fortunate to start our organization from scratch and build an airline that is aimed at three core missions: elevating the guest experience through better service and design; being “virgin” – a consumer champion in the industry; and elevating our teammates along the way.  That last “Elevating People” value is one of our core company values – and diversity, accepting different points of view and opinions, creativity, respect and teamwork are all core components of it.  Companies that are young and have a mission behind their work are often places where many different viewpoints can thrive and flourish.

In 2010, Virgin America received a lot of publicity when a pilot enabled two men to be married on a flight over Canada.  Did that event lead to any changes in attitude towards LGBT employees?

Morehead: There was a lot of buzz around this after a passenger Tweeted about it, but actually, our pilot or crew did not perform a ceremony nor divert the flight over Canadian skies.  The couple themselves may have had their own celebration – but they are the only ones to verify if they did.  That said, anything is possible and we would not be surprised!  We’ve found that our cabin moodlighting and seat-to-seat chat system have helped more than a few couples meet onboard – and at least one couple who have met onboard were eventually married.  And we’ve actually had a wedding ceremony onboard before (Sir Richard was ordained as a minister and married a couple on a Las Vegas flight in 2007).  See here.

In 2009, Virgin America was named the official airline of San Francisco Pride and partnered with San Francisco Pride Parade.  What kinds of commitments and activities did that involve? 

Morehead: As San Francisco’s hometown airline it was a natural fit for us to be a part of San Francisco Pride. The spirit that surrounds the celebration has literally defined the San Francisco community for more than 30 years, and we couldn’t be more proud to be a part of this incredible tradition and support San Francisco Pride’s important work to educate and celebrate the LGBT community. We’ve worked with San Francisco Pride since our launch and have found it to be one of the most rewarding and fulfilling organizations we’re involved with.


What are some LGBT causes that Virgin America supports?

Morehead: In addition to San Francisco Pride, we also support AIDS/LifeCycle ( and have made in-kind contributions to the GLAAD Media Awards.

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