The cabin crew of Virgin Australia--formerly Virgin Blue--has been asked to participate in a program called Elevate, an etiquette, wine-appreciation, grooming and body language class, in an effort to try to win business customers from flailing rival, Qantas.
Australia's Daily Telegraph reports that, among the changes, cabin crew will no longer be able to greet passengers in the true Australianism "mate", unless the passenger is a frequent flyer and has given consent to be called mate in the airline's database.
Mark Hassell, the airline's group executive of brand and customer experience, has also gotten rid of the clubbier aspects of the airline's Melbourne Airport lounge, replacing the pool table with baristas and a buffet in an effort to win over business travelers.
"We are not creating clones and we are not creating straightjackets for people," Hassell said. "We want to retain of the spirit that exists within Virgin service style and service behavior but put it in a context that is equally relevant for business-purpose and corporate travelers."
Yet at least one unidentified flight attendant sees it differently, telling The Daily Telegraph, "They want us to get away from that 'sex' look that's been attached to the company." (To that point, check out photos of Elle Macpherson and formerly Virgin Blue flight attendants model their new uniforms in 2011, below.)
The move isn't entirely surprising to people who watch the Virgin group's airlines. Earlier this year, Virgin Atlantic's flight attendants were given whispering lessons to have a "calming effect" for Upper Class passengers. "It is incredibly important that all Virgin Atlantic's cabin crew have their skills honed in order to provide the most comfortable experience possible for our passengers," Richard Fitzgerald, Virgin Atlantic's whispering coach, said at the time.
In 2011, Elle Macpherson rocked the runway with some then-Virgin Blue flight attendants to debut the airline's 60's-inspired uniforms.