Virgin Australia’s Mardi Gras flights

Virgin Mardi Gras airway

More than 500 travellers, including legendary drag performers and renowned celebrities, celebrated high in the skies onboard Virgin Australia and United Airlines’ dedicated Pride Flight services. These special flights took off from San Francisco, Melbourne, and Brisbane, landing in Sydney just in time for Australia’s premier LGBTQIA+ celebration. Upon arrival, festivities continued as passengers were greeted by Tinder Glambassador Danni Issues and later joined the vibrant Landing Party at The Beresford, featuring performances that included a Virgin Australia dance troupe and a soul-stirring ballad by Hugh Sheridan.

In a generous show of support for the LGBTQIA+ community, Virgin Australia announced that $30 from every Pride Flight ticket sold would be donated to Minus18, a charity devoted to supporting LGBTQIA+ youth. Similarly, United Airlines committed to a $125K USD donation to The Trevor Foundation as part of their annual contribution to LGBTQIA+ causes.

The flights themselves were a spectacle of celebration and inclusivity. Virgin Australia’s Pride Flight from Melbourne to Sydney, numbered VA1978 in homage to the year Sydney hosted its inaugural Mardi Gras Parade, along with the Brisbane to Sydney VA2017 flight – commemorating the year same-sex marriage was legalised in Australia – included pre-flight departure parties complete with drag performances, celebrity appearances, mid-air entertainment, and endless refreshments. The San Francisco to Sydney Pride Flight, a codeshare flight VA8005 with United Airlines, offered an international bridge to the festivities.

Passengers on these flights were entertained by iconic figures such as RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under star Maxi Shield and the beloved Melbourne drag duo The Jawbreakers. A special highlight was Hugh Sheridan’s performance of “Sweet Caroline” at the Brisbane Departure Gate Party, which saw passengers enthusiastically sing along with the Australian TV star. These flights were not only a celebration of Pride but also a showcase of Virgin Australia’s commitment to diversity and inclusion, operated by LGBTQIA+ pilots, crew, and allies.

The list of special guests on the Melbourne and Brisbane Pride Flights reads like a who’s who of Australian celebrities, from NBL player Isaac Humphries and former AFL player Danielle Laidley, to social personalities and influencers making their presence felt. The integration of these recognisable faces underscored the flights’ atmosphere of camaraderie and support for the LGBTQIA+ community.

The Pride Flight Landing Party at The Beresford extended the spirit of celebration, welcoming not just the flight passengers but additional guests including TV host Neale Whitaker and other. This event encapsulated the joy and unity of the LGBTQIA+ community and their allies, marking an uplifting start to Australia’s largest annual gay and lesbian celebration.

Virgin Mardi Gras airway cabin crew

Virgin Australia initiated the Pride Flight in 2021, and it has rapidly become an essential feature of the airline’s annual events calendar. In 2024, Virgin Australia will continue the tradition of championing inclusion during the pride festivities in Sydney. The Pride Flight is a pivotal part of Virgin Australia’s Pride Network, one of five employee-led networks that contribute to the Virgin Australia Group Belonging Strategy. This strategy is dedicated to fostering an environment where everyone — regardless of their gender, marital or family status, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, age, abilities, ethnicity, religious beliefs, socio-economic or cultural background, perspective, and experience — feels safe, included and valued.

Virgin Australia Pride Flight schedule of events:

  • San Francisco > Sydney
  • UA863 (codeshare flight VA8005)
  • Wednesday 28 February departing at 10.50pm, arriving on Friday 1 March at 9.15am
  • Brisbane > Sydney
  • VA2017
  • Friday 1 March departing at 12:15pm, arriving at 2.50pm
  • Melbourne > Sydney
  • VA1978
  • Friday 1 March departing at 1:30pm, arriving at 2:55pm