Did Virgin America take Pride too far?


There is little doubt that the US aviation industry is, on the whole, a great supporter of LGBTQ rights and causes. The airlines routinely rank highly in things like the Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index and have been out ahead of others in offering benefits to partners, even when not married under traditional law. When it comes to Pride events through the month of June the airlines have been similarly active. They are sponsoring events, showing public support for the community and generally being good corporate and social citizens. And then Virgin America went and posted this on Twitter:

https://twitter.com/VirginAmerica/status/613865441128259584

And things changed quite a bit.

No longer was the conversation about supporting the community or establishing equality. Rather, it comes off as something a bit more like sexual exploitation. It is titillation instead of conversation.

And I just don’t get it. Maybe I’ve completely missed the point. After all, I’m not the target demographic at all. And it did get a bit of engagement from followers, though with 700k+ followers I would have expected better numbers than they got. But no company would ever post a comparable discussion about traditionally heterosexual sexual behavior. Because that’s not what the conversation is about.

As a society we’ve spent decades trying to explain that what happens in the bedroom is not how we should define individuals or groups. And with one ill-conceived tweet Virgin America has screwed that up badly. This isn’t even a message couched in cute innuendo. I like flying on Virgin America well enough but this is the sort of “engagement” which makes me want to not fly them more. Not because it is “gay” but because it is bad. It panders to the community rather than supporting the community. It simply stinks.

And maybe it is slightly ironic that I managed to get this post composed and published right around the same time that SCOTUS issued its ruling on same-sex marriage. But I couldn’t be happier on that front.

Three examples of airlines actually supporting the community, not exploiting it:

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and .

6 Comments

  1. “After all, I’m not the target demographic at all.”

    Looking at replies on Twitter, looks like the target demographic found it sufficiently cheeky, with at least one person talking about how it was “on-brand”.

    They got you talking about it, they didn’t get a backlash from their main crowd — sounds like PR success to me.

    1. I saw plenty of negative reaction from the target demographic, too. And only 3k engagements on 700k+ followers doesn’t seem like a great success to me.

      The idea that all publicity is good publicity is a fallacy. And I think this is an example of that in action.

      1. I’m with you on this…it’s a turn off. A topic that should be about love was turned into, cheeky or not, a topic about sex. Which is what this isn’t about at all!

  2. Well said. People that think this is some sort of great marketing or think it is “on brand” are missing the point. That kind of marketing is not needed and does a disservice to what has been accomplished.

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