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Virgin Australia orders flight attendants to ditch sexy image and take etiquette classes

Virgin Australia orders flight attendants to ditch sexy image and take etiquette classes

As Virgin Australia continues its mission of trying to win over the business-class market from Qantas, Sir Richard Branson's airline is asking its flight attendants to clean up their acts — one rounded vowel and straightened back at a time.

Virgin Australia cabin crew are now required to take classes in etiquette, posture and language to meet the standard expected by business travellers (so much for good service in economy!).

Flight attendants must now undergo a program called Elevate, brushing up on skills such as food and wine appreciation, grooming, and body language, The Sunday Telegraph reports.

They will no longer be able to call passengers "mate" unless the passenger has specified so on a Frequent Flyer form. No word yet on whether "G'day" will be banned, but we'd hazard a guess it's a no-go.

"They want us to get away from that 'sex' look that's been attached to the company," one hostess told the newspaper.

Branson's Virgin group of airlines has traditionally represented its air hostesses as sassy bombshells (watch the 2010 Virgin Atlantic striptease commercial below).

That glamorous image was reinforced locally when Elle Macpherson launched the new Virgin Australia (then Virgin Blue) uniforms in a sexy catwalk show in February 2011 (view pics below).

But as Elle put it, the Australian-designed uniforms brought "a sort of glamour, elegance and fun back into uniforms."

Modest and cultured is the new sexy, it seems. Who'd have thought?

It's not just the level of mid-air service that Virgin Australia is changing.

On the ground, Virgin Australia airport lounges in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane are getting a boutique upgrade, with a buffet spread designed by celebrity chef Luke Mangan, of the Hilton Hotel Sydney.

At the Melbourne lounge, a pool table has disappeared in favour of the buffet and baristas — because sinking an eight ball is more grungy pub than posh airport lounge.

Virgin Australia's group executive of brand and customer experience, Mark Hassell, insists the changes are for the better.

"We are not creating clones and we are not creating straightjackets for people," he told the Telegraph.

"We want to retain of the spirit that exists within Virgin service style and service behaviour but put it in a context that is equally relevant for business-purpose and corporate travellers."

Do flight attendants need culture lessons? What are your experiences with Virgin? Tell us in the comments form below.

User comments
I mean, c'mon... Can you imagine being welcomed-aboard Singapore Airlines or Cathay Pacific business class with "hey, mate!". Yeesh. Makes my skin crawl. If Virgin want to attract business-class passengers, those who spend a lot of money on tickets, and people who are accustomed to being referred to as "sir" or "ma'am", then they have to up the ante. This is plainly obvious. If you want to be looked-after by Boganettes and yobbos, go fly Tiger.
It's not ok for females to say mate. For those of you who don't know it's in fact very bogan for a female to say it to a male . It's not cool...
Why? I would much rather someone call me "mate" vs "sweetie" or even "love"! I really admire Richard Branson's attitude towards business, and I think it's great he wants to improve, but, please leave the little touches, like "mate" in there! The uniforms aren't provocative!
Before everybody starts bagging out Virgin Australia or any other cabin crew I ask that people remember for a second that they are not there for your pleasure or to clean up your mess because you choose to act like a pig... Cabin crew are mainly there for your safety and not to take your abuse or your stupid demands like can I have a blanket.. perhaps people should think about the big picture before they run their mouths.. Mind your manners while your in public and perhaps people will treat you better...
Having recently returned from USA I'd like to comment on the style of cabin crew on the flights I was on. I wouldn't class them as being "sexy" but more the style of crew I'd prefer to see on flights. A few of the stewards were not pencil thin and I remember thinking at the time "good on you Richard Branson for selecting 'normal' people to staff you airlines". Whilst there were a couple of thinner girls, I'd say that pretty much the rest of the crew were of good build and stylish in the way they wore their uniforms and carried themselves. Not having had the pleasure of travelling business class, I can't comment on the crew in that area of the plane.
The last thing I need is to pay for and have to deal with sleazy and otherwise inappropriate overtones to everything.. that should really be reserved for the stewardesses husbands.
Yes, yes they do. Bright red lipstick and a scarf does not mean one knows how to be polite. The check in people needs lessons too!
I have been flying with Virgin Blue since their first few flights. Have had a few flights on Virgin Alantic before that. some cabin crew on early flights left a lot to be desired. One GIRL on a flight out of TSV interupted her safty announcment several times making silly comments and waving to activities on the tarmac.That was only the start of bad nehaviour during the whole flight. Not many were too young and silly like this one thank goodness. On another ocassion a long delay in boarding an aircraft in SYD was amazing. 3 different Girls gave three different (Unbelieable) reasons for the delay. When this was pointed out to the Senior Virgin Exec while finally boarding he Laughed and said that were were doing a wonderfull job. After a break from Virgin i was pleasently supprised at how mature Cabin Staff had become A very pleasent change. As a very experienced and frequent flyer.Both International and domestic i have experienced the highs and lows
To whom it may concern, While i am glad to read Virgin is changing its image from sexy to classy, however i feel that banning the word mate is a big mistake and actually highly offensive to Australians. The word 'mate' is strongly associated with being Australian and is part of our national identity. The word 'mate' is not derogotory or offensive in any way. Does this mean Virgin doesent want to be associated with Australia ? We are Australian. I am sure nobody who travels with Virgin expects our hostesses to give that up. Be classy, great. Being classy and being Australian are NOT mutually excusive. Don't ask us to sit by and keep travelling with Virgin when you seem to be systematically eradicating all things Australian. I can not emphasise how strongly i feel about this. I realise this email probably wont get noticed by anyone who can influence real change, however frankly i have had enough and i will be spreading the word why I will not be flying Virgin anymore. Sincerely, Mr Jones
I don't think those uniforms are really that sexy. it's a bit of fuss about nothing. The skirts nearly come down to the knee and the shirts don't show off the girls' boobs. The only thing that really makes them "sexy" as such is probably the way Elle Macpherson struts them. They're no different to any other uniform. What else are people expecting them to wear anyway??

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