Virgin Trains apologises for ‘sexist’ tweet

Image copyright Emily Lucinda Cole
Image caption Virgin Trains passenger Emily Cole said the tweet was “patronising and belittling”

Virgin Trains has “apologised unreservedly” for a tweet which some social media users described as “sexist”.

In response to a passenger complaint about being referred to as “honey”, the official Virgin Trains East Coast Twitter account asked if she would “prefer ‘pet’ or ‘love’ next time”.

The passenger, Emily Lucinda Cole, 27, said she was “stunned” by the response.

Virgin Trains East Coast subsequently deleted their original tweet.

Image copyright Twitter

Ms Cole was travelling on a busy train from Edinburgh, where she had been visiting friends and family for Hogmanay, to her home in London.

“They were telling passengers at the front desk and on the platform that they can sit in the basically empty first class coach and pay the weekend upgrade,” she told the BBC.

“It was only after the train set off that they told us they’d all made a mistake and we had to move to try and find seats with all our luggage in the packed train.

“The first person to check my ticket was very abrasive. His response to my explaining the situation, politely and honestly, and that I wanted to complain, was ‘you go ahead honey’.

“In the context and given his aggressive tone I can only assume he didn’t like being challenged by a woman.

“I wouldn’t have complained if he’d used the term in a familial or affectionate way. It definitely wasn’t that.”

‘Patronising and belittling’

At that point Ms Cole tweeted Virgin Trains East Coast.

“Their response was patronising and belittling,” she said. “Just the behaviour I was complaining about.

“It wasn’t about the use of the term in isolation that’s the problem but when these words are appropriated in such a passive aggressive way in response to a service complaint.

“They become part of a wider systemic issue of women being patronised and belittled.”

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The tweet sparked a debate on social media. Journalists Owen Jones and Rebecca Manning Reid were among those to comment in support of Ms Cole’s stance.

But other social media users claimed it was a term of endearment.

A spokesperson for Virgin Trains on the east coast route said: “We apologise unreservedly for this tweet and for the offence caused. To avoid causing more offence we have deleted the original post.”

By Chris Bell, BBC UGC and Social News team

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