United and Virgin Australia’s Pride flight set for a colourful Sydney arrival

by James Wilkinson

United Airlines’ inaugural pride flight from San Francisco to Sydney is set to touch down in Australia’s largest city today (Feb 24), entirely by members and allies of the LGBTQ+ community.

Departing on Wednesday, February 22 from San Francisco International Airport, the festivities kicked-off with a celebration at the gate, continue with giveaways and activities onboard the flight and culminate with a welcome party upon arrival in Sydney to mark the World Pride festival in the city.

While Virgin Australia has offered special domestic flights in Australia for Pride since 2021, this is the first time United is joining this effort.

“As a proud ally of the LGBTQ+ community and the leading carrier from the U.S. to Australia, United is thrilled to join the party and help people celebrate the upcoming Pride events in Sydney,” said United’s Vice President of Operations in San Francisco, Lori Augustine. “At United, we recognise, embrace and celebrate the differences that make our customers and employees unique.

“We’re committed to creating an inclusive work environment while supporting the diverse communities we serve. Our Pride Flight is yet another example of how at United, Good Leads the Way,” she said.

Augustine said United has an ongoing commitment to LGBTQ+ equality, including a proud history of firsts.

She said United was the first U.S. airline to fully recognise domestic partnerships in 1999 and was the first U.S. airline to offer non-binary gender options throughout all its booking channels in 2019.

Also in 2019, the airline became the first public company to be inducted into Pride Live’s Stonewall Ambassador program in recognition of the airline’s commitment to LGBTQ+ equality.

Through EQUAL, the airline’s LGBTQ+ Business Resource Group, more than 4,500 members work together to advocate on behalf of the LGBTQ+ community, working with members and leaders companywide to develop ways to deliver resources, education and advocacy.

Augustine said United continues to be committed to inclusion and supporting employees to be their full selves at work, which is why in 2021, the airline updated its appearance standards, moving away from gender-specific guidance and allowing customer-facing employees to represent themselves authentically through visible tattoos, nose piercings, hair, make-up, nails and more.

“Virgin Australia launched our initial Pride Flight in the middle of the pandemic and fast forward to today, we have flights all over Australia, and our very first international Pride Flight from San Francisco with our wonderful partner, United Airlines,” said Virgin Australia Group CEO, Jayne Hrdlicka.

“It’s so important that we use our voice to promote diversity and inclusion in the communities in which we live, work and fly.

“Our partnership with United Airlines is incredibly important and it’s so wonderful to witness the collaboration between the airlines, and the joy we have brought our guests in spreading pride right across the Pacific and throughout Australia.”

United is the Bay Area’s global airline, with more flights to more destinations around the world than any other airline in Northern California.

United operates more than 200 daily departures from San Francisco International Airport, taking customers to more than 100 destinations around the globe, including the most international service with flights to 26 different international cities.

United’s partnership with Virgin Australia also gives customers new connecting options to Australia’s most popular destinations, and MileagePlus members have the ability to earn and redeem miles/points across both airlines’ networks.