Virgin Atlantic’s gender-neutral uniform policy did not apply onboard the England football team’s flight to Qatar “to ensure the safety of our people”, the airline said.
The crew working on the flight from Birmingham airport to the World Cup on Tuesday were required to wear uniforms based on their gender due to a risk-assessment by the carrier.
Virgin Atlantic introduced a “fluid” approach in September, which it said at the time gave staff the option of wearing its red or burgundy uniforms based on “how they identify or present themselves”.
Qatar’s oppressive laws and treatment of LGBTQ+ people have been criticised ahead of the tournament.
Virgin Atlantic said in a statement: “The safety and security of our people and customers is always our top priority.
“We’re proud our leading gender identity policy allows our people to express themselves through uniform choice.
“As part of our policy, we complete a risk assessment on all countries we fly to, considering laws and attitudes towards the LGBTQ+ community and expressions of identity on a case by case basis.
“Following a risk assessment, it was recommended the policy was not applied on today’s charter flight to ensure the safety of our people.”
Virgin Atlantic said the implementation of its policy for flights to some destinations is considered on a case-by-case basis, with discussions between crew members and managers.
The plane carrying the England team was only expected to be on the ground in Qatar capital Doha for a short period before returning to the UK, but the airline was concerned about the wellbeing of its crew if a technical problem caused a delay.
The plane was named Rain Bow and displayed an image of a man wearing shoes with a rainbow motif, which is a symbol of LGBTQ+ pride.
Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar and anyone found participating in same-sex sexual activity can be punished by up to seven years in prison.
Foreign Office advice notes “any intimacy between persons in public can be considered offensive, regardless of gender, sexual orientation or intent”.
An ambassador for the World Cup last week described homosexuality as “damage in the mind”.
Former Qatari footballer Khalid Salman told German public broadcaster ZDF that being gay is “haram”, or forbidden in Arabic, and that he has a problem with children seeing gay people.