August 20 2014

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Now Boarding: Virgin Atlantic’s Well-Groomed Cabin Crew


Virgin Atlantic’s positioning has always been pretty clear: Since it started its long-haul service from the U.K. to major metropolitan hubs in the U.S. over 25 years ago, Sir Richard Branson’s fleet of jetliners have been efficient, comfortable, and above all cool. Cue the signature red uniforms and all those hip extras, like an “Upper Class” cabin with the biggest fully flat bed of any airline’s business class service, an in-flight bar, and London terminals equipped with Bumble and Bumble salons to help you get properly coiffed before or after a flight. The company’s perfectly primped personnel also try to keep that Pan Am-era high-altitude glamour alive.

“It’s a big part of our customer service,” the company’s grooming manager, Rebecca Creer, says of having a “very well put-together” staff. And Creer would know; she literally wrote the book on touch-ups at 30,000 feet. This month sees the release of Runway, a new training manual that teaches incoming employees how to choose a hairstyle that works with their face shape, the best way to work a messy chignon à la Natalie Portman at the Oscars, and all the products they’ll need to get the look. “We always had a grooming manual, but it was a little corporate. We wanted to vamp it up so people were excited about it.” Here, as we gear up for the holiday travel season, Creer talks in-flight beauty tips, “Virgin’s next top model,” and why, as far as she’s concerned, there’s a red lipstick out there for everyone.

So what exactly does it mean to be a “grooming manager” for an airline? Was there a major for that in college?

I basically set the standard for all of the grooming for all of our uniformed staff across the globe. I’m a trained beauty therapist and I flew with Virgin Atlantic as an in-flight therapist when we still offered that service, but on our staff there’s also a fully trained hairdresser, another fully trained beauty therapist, and we have two salons at our head offices so our staff and their families can come in to have haircuts, makeup applications, and facials.

Is there a prescribed Virgin “look,” something that everyone who puts on the red uniform must comply with?

It really varies. We’re not overly strict for makeup. But we do expect the minimum, so some blusher, mascara, and of course the red lipstick. With hair, if it’s long we expect it to be up; if it’s a bob, it can’t sit any longer than the base of the collar of the uniform.

Tell me more about “the red lipstick.” Is there one bullet that you dole out to everyone who comes into your office?

That’s one of the questions we get most frequently, actually. People say, “Red lipstick doesn’t suit me,” but we always believe that there’s a red lipstick for everyone. At the moment, we’re working with Bare Minerals. For the last few years, they’ve been trying to come up with a red lipstick for our staff and it’s just come out. It’s called Strength. It last for ages, it doesn’t bleed—it’s like a gloss but it goes on like a lipstick and it’s got a beautiful wand.

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