Air New Zealand Drops Employee Tattoo Ban

Filed Under: Air New Zealand

As the role of flight attendants has changed over the years, we’ve also seen airlines adjust policies to better reflect that.

Decades ago flight attendants were basically hired as models, and in many cases there were restrictions about their weight, appearance, etc. In some parts of the world that’s still the case, though nowadays it’s the exception rather than the norm.

Airlines have largely updated policies to reflect that, like no longer requiring female flight attendants to wear makeup, skirts, and high heels, and also letting flight attendants make more choices regarding their appearance.

Interestingly almost across the board airlines still have policies against visible tattoos. Customer-facing employees at most airlines aren’t allowed to have any tattoos showing. While I’m personally not a huge tattoo fan (in the sense that I’d never get one), I also have no problem with others having tattoos, and have never understand why this is heavily restricted.

At least one airline is changing their policy regarding this. As of September 1, 2019, Air New Zealand will drop their ban on employees having visible tattoos. Employees will be able to have visible tattoos, as long as they’re “non-offensive.” A spokesperson says they will treat tattoos the same way as speech in determining what’s offensive.

Air New Zealand’s CEO says the change is being made to allow employees “to express individuality or cultural heritage,” adding:

“We want to liberate all our staff including uniform wearers such as cabin crew, pilots and airport customer service teams who will, for the first time, be able to have non-offensive tattoos visible when wearing their uniforms.”

It’s logical enough that an airline like Air New Zealand would be among the first to lift a ban like this, given the cultural significance of tattoos in New Zealand. The airline has even been accused of hypocrisy on this front, as they’ve used some aspects of Maori culture in their marketing, but banned visible Maori tattoos.

Air New Zealand found that 20% of New Zealanders had at least one tattoo, and that percentage increases with younger people — more than 35% of people in New Zealand under 30 have tattoos.

Bottom line

I’m in support of this policy change from Air New Zealand. Slowly but surely, airlines are letting employees express themselves more, and that’s something that’s good, as long as it’s done in a non-offensive way. I’ll be curious to see if other airlines follow.

What do you guys think — should more airlines lift their employee tattoo bans?

  1. Great! MS-13 gang members with face tatted up can work for Air New Zealand once they get out of prison.

    This should really help the airline bottom line

  2. I’m a New Zealander with Scottish ancestry who has a Maori fish hook tattoo (representing god luck, safe travels over water and strength).
    I am in support of Air New Zealand recognising and including the importance of Kiwis being able to represent their connection to, love of and support of New Zealand and the heritage/culture. Kia ora.

  3. More than 35% of people under 30 have tattoos….that’ll be great business for tattoo removalist cosmetic surgeons in a decade or so. While they have cultural significance for some, unfortunately the majority of those getting them are just poseurs…and they come to regret these very bad choices of youth. Better to spend the tattoo money on more avocado toast and lattes.

  4. Not a fan of tattoos in general except Polynesian ones. But I do have to say despite the fact that tattoo in general in the west have negative connotations, I find people who have lots of tattoos are some of the nicest people I have ever met. It goes to show that you can’t judge a book by its cover.

  5. This will most unlikely happen to Asian airlines, especially JAL and ANA, and I like it that way. Although, I don’t have a problem with people who have tattoos, I don’t feel much peace when I see someone who have too much tattoos. If my flight attendants serve me with his/her tattooed arms, I lose my peaceful moment on the plane. It’s like hearing crying babies….I need a peace.

  6. Folks for me this is a horrible change. I see dirty people wearing tattoos. It reminds me of a child in first grade writing on themselves with an ink pen. I will do my best to avoid you and I would never hire you. Why can’t we dress up, as opposed to dressing down, for flights. This is one reason why we get treated like crap is because we dress like crap.

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