The England Men’s National Soccer Team flew on a Virgin Atlantic pride-themed plane named Rain Bow to Doha on Tuesday in advance of the FIFA World Cup’s start in Qatar.
In the state of Qatar, homosexuality is against the law, and the nation’s record on human rights has come under increasing criticism for the event.
The England team has been particularly outspoken over Qatar’s treatment of LGBTQ+ persons, and captain Harry Kane plans to wear a rainbow armband during the competition despite FIFA’s objections.
If the aircraft had been specifically picked to operate the special charter flight from Birmingham to Doha on Tuesday, neither the English Football Association nor Virgin Atlantic has confirmed it.
In a statement, however, a spokesperson for the airline told us: “As a British flag carrier, we’re proud to fly the England Men’s Football team to the FIFA World Cup.”
“At Virgin Atlantic, we believe that everyone can take on the world. Aircraft G-VPRD, also known as Rain Bow, which proudly displays our LGBTQ+ flying icon, will be flying the team to the tournament.”
As Virgin Atlantic’s LGBTQ+ flying emblem, Oscar, a male figure painted at the nose of the aircraft, is visible. Oscar was originally mocked up wearing hotpants in rainbow colors, but in the finished product, Oscar is wearing a plain blue shirt and trousers.
To give employees more freedom to express themselves, the airline made significant revisions to its uniform and gender identification policy last month.
Virgin Atlantic changed the established gender roles for cabin crew uniforms by allowing employees to wear whatever attire they find most flattering, regardless of their gender or gender identity.