When Virgin Atlantic flight attendants walk through an airport—in a V-formation, of course—people stop in their tracks. Everyone wants to be them, with that perfect shade of red lipstick and sleek hair no matter the altitude. Since the art of flying in 2013 has lost more than a tad of luster, Virgin proves that gallivanting can still be glamorous.
In order to make sure every last uniformed staff member walks the Virgin walk with an effortless French twist or manscaped beard, Branson puts trainees through an intensive grooming day. Both guys and gals learn about sky-high skin care, makeup tips, and airtight hairstyles.
So, I booked it to London to crash the course and learn how to look my best at 30,000 feet. I got the head-to-toe Virgin makeover complete with a fitted red uniform. What did I learn? Sky-high glam is actually simple, you just need to know a few high-impact tricks and you're on your way to looking sexy in the sky.
With internal mantra "polished to the max", it's clear why no other airline in the world does hair like Virgin. Mingling modern styles with the classics like the chignon and '60s bouffant, the cabin crew looks like they've just stepped out of the salon (on every flight) thanks to hair expert Helen Kavanagh's training. In just under six minutes—yes, six minutes—she coiffed my mane into a pouffy, side-swept do reminiscent of an awards show gala. All it took was a little backcombing know-how and haircare essentials to achieve hair lift-off. This look and others are demonstrated on classmates throughout the day, in addition to follow-up, how-to material.
Bonus Tip: Ladies, if you have medium-length or long hair, always wear it up in-flight, so it doesn't get that tousled spot where your head hits the seat. If your hair is a bob-length or shorter, make sure to spruce it up before deplaning. A bed head screams: airplane 1; traveler 0!
"If you spend money on only one skin saver, buy a good moisturizer" said Mim Allgood, the grooming team's skin and make-up expert. Looking at the throngs of red-suited globetrotters showcasing photo-ready skin, I'd tend to agree. Somehow, Virgin flight attendants come out of a 14-hour flight with dewy skin, while the rest of us are parched and dry as the desert. And in case you think the red-suited staff's J.Lo-glow is just good genes, think again. Recruits are taught to prepare for travel on a daily basis with a solid skincare regime: exfoliate and apply a hydrating masque the night before, apply more moisturizer than usual the day-of, and re-hydrate with mountains of moisturizer after the flight. Above all, drink lots of water; flight attendants consume over a liter in-flight. If you sense a theme here, that's because there is one: hydrate and re-hydrate. Men, you too!
Bonus Tip: The in-flight staff swears by the ultra-moisturizing and multi-purpose Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream which they apply as a moisturizer, to smooth eyebrows, and to to condition cuticles (among many other uses). Other skincare brands flight attendant favor are Dermalogica and Kiehl's.
As you might expect from staffers' model-esque pouty lips, Virgin has a minimum make-up look. For gals, it's mascara, blush, and red lips. (Glam in under two minutes!) Add a touch of grey or lilac eye shadow, cover-up, mineral powder (Mim swears by bareMinerals), and bronzer to go from bare to babe in five minutes flat.
Bonus Tip: Mim believes there's a shade of red lipstick to suit every woman. If you don't know where to start, always veer toward a blue-red hue.
The night before my flight home, I think back to my training and exfoliate, slather my face in thick moisturizer and eye cream, and drink a lake's worth of water. While cruising above the clouds, my skin is visibly plumper, which makes me realize there's everyday beauty, and then there's travel beauty. Looking hot at a mile high calls for a slightly different formula, and once you've got the hang of it, your skin will soar!
Photos courtesy of Trish Friesen