Celebrating Manchester Pride with Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Atlantic
Virgin Atlantic
Natalie Clarkson
by Natalie Clarkson
31 August 2021

Manchester Pride Festival is all about celebrating LGBTQ+ life. Virgin Atlantic was the headline sponsor again this year as the airline continues to be thoughtful, caring and open-minded at the heart of everything it does.

Manchester Pride is all about creating a world where LGBTQ+ people are free to live and love without prejudice. It’s more than just a one-day celebration, Manchester Pride campaigns year-round for LGBTQ+ equality and creates opportunities for LGBTQ+ people to thrive.

With a long history of supporting LGBTQ+ rights, Richard Branson began supporting the gay community nearly 50 years ago, when he started the Student Advisory Centre. The helpline allowed young callers with problems to retain their anonymity and get help from the right people. Virgin has since sponsored Pride festivals, hosted international panels, supported Attitude Magazine, helped launch Open for Business (a business-led coalition to make the economic case for LGBTQ+ inclusion) and supported the abolition of anti-LGBTQ+ laws. 

In the same way, Virgin Atlantic works hard to make sure that it is a place where its people can be themselves, whether they work for the airline or travel with them. Some of Virgin Atlantic’s employees have shared what Pride means for them…

Jude Ota

Jude works in the customer care team in the operations control centre, making sure Virgin Atlantic always keeps its customers at the forefront of what it does, even in times of disruption or when it is facing challenges.

Virgin Atlantic
Virgin Atlantic

He says: “For me personally Pride is about celebrating the many LGBTQ+ communities around the world and being grateful to be able to be unapologetically me! But importantly it’s also about remembering those who have fought for LGBTQ+ rights, acknowledging there is still a tremendous amount of work to be done to enable everyone within our community to be accepted for whoever they are.

“Since joining Virgin Atlantic just under three years ago, I instantly knew this would be the place for me. Although I hadn’t come out at this point in my life, three years on, with the support of a manager and my colleagues I can proudly be my most authentic self and just be me!

“I feel incredibly lucky to be able to come into work and feel accepted for who I am, as well as having colleagues both from the community and allies who work to ensure we continue to have a workplace that is inclusive for every single person within it.”

Natalie and Lauren Hutchings

Natalie and Lauren met working at Virgin Atlantic and are now married. Natalie is a Product Services Executive and Lauren is a Sales Team Leader for Virgin Atlantic Holidays. 

Virgin Atlantic
Virgin Atlantic

Lauren says: “For us, we live every day with pride. We are married, have the love and support of our friends and family around us. But we know that is not the case for every LGBTQ+ person in this country or world, so we know how lucky we are. This is why Pride is so important and will continue to be important until every person on this planet can live their authentic life without judgement or danger.”

Natalie added: “I think the story of how we met is one of the biggest testaments of how inclusive and supportive Virgin are. I joined the company, and a couple of the people in my team knew Lauren who worked in a different department. They began finding out more about me and realised me and Lauren had a lot in common, so they introduced us and we made a plan to go to dinner! Fast forward a couple of years and all our amazing colleagues were celebrating with us at our UK wedding party when we returned from our wedding in Vegas. We’ve now been married three years, and owe Virgin and our amazing colleagues a lot of credit for our happily ever after!”

Nick Rowbotham

Nick has flown as Cabin Crew for Virgin Atlantic for over 14 years.

Virgin Atlantic
Virgin Atlantic

He says: “Pride represents a beacon of hope that reaches out to every walk of life and to all parts of society. For me, it conveys the important message of equality, dignity, self-affirmation & increased visibility of LBGTQ+ people as a social group.

“As a company, Virgin really does promote an inclusive and valued work environment. So as an LGBTQ+ person, I don’t feel any different to anyone else that I work with. I've been lucky enough to be involved with many major events that Virgin Atlantic has hosted over the years. Many of which have been to promote equality within the workforce. I was fortunate enough to work on the world's first Pride flight, which was a once in a lifetime experience. An airline first and huge success. Events like these are where Virgin can demonstrate and showcase that they are an equality focused company. That's why I'm so immensely proud to work for and be a part of the family.”

Take a look at some of the fun that Virgin Atlantic had at Manchester Pride this weekend…

Head over to the Virgin Atlantic blog to find out more about how the airline supports the LGBTQ+ community and read more from its people.