On Friday 28th June 2019, 284 people took to the skies for Virgin Atlantic’s inaugural Pride Flight, in honour of the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots.
An all-LGBT+ crew were joined by partygoers and celebrities including drag queen Courtney Act, and Titus Burgess (of Netflix hit The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt), who led the entertainment and said the cause was close to his heart and that he wouldn’t have missed the opportunity to be on board.
Drag queen DJ Jodie Harsh also performed on the flight, named VS69 after the year of the uprising, from a significantly more colourful than usual Heathrow Terminal 3 to New York.
Spirits were high as boarding commenced amid a sea of rainbow flags and glitter. On-board entertainment included drag queen bingo – along with plenty of spontaneous singalongs. DJ sets, particularly Jodie Harsh’s, saw the plane’s bar area resemble a nightclub.
Even the afternoon tea served was Pride-themed, with rainbow mini eclairs, while the house cocktail was a Virgin-red gin mix. A welcome committee cheered passengers as they arrived at Newark Liberty International Airport, and the crew received a roof-raising reception upon disembarking. Tickets to the flight, which started at £399 return, sold out in 24 hours.
Saara Aalto also performed on the Pride Flight from London to New York. Corporate involvement in Pride is an ongoing debate. Speaking after the flight, Sir Richard Branson said that companies changing their logos for Pride were making “at least […] a step in the right direction”.
This weekend sees New York host WorldPride, with an estimated 4million people expected to attend. Tree Sequoia, an 80-year-old veteran of the uprising who still works at the Stonewall Inn today, recounted the events of June 28, 1969, when police raided the bar, trying to plant drugs, and the community fought back. A year later, the first Pride march took place, a couple of hundred people walking up to Central Park. Tree said: “We figured that was it forever. And look at now – 50 years.”