Air New Zealand has announced that all staff will be able to wear their tattoos with pride. The airline has confirmed that from September 1st, all employees will be allowed to display tattoos, as long as they are ‘non-offensive’.

A controversial policy

Air New Zealand has been in the spotlight for some time regarding its firm stance on tattooed employees. Some applicants to the airline have reportedly been turned away in the past, according to Stuff. This angered some, as the airline was seen as employing double standards, using Maori symbology in its marketing while not allowing traditional tā moko ink.

The rise of ink

Go back to the 80s and it was rare to see anyone with a tattoo, save for the odd military person or punk rocker. Now, however, tattoos are far more commonplace. In fact, around a quarter of people in the US have a tattoo, and in the UK it’s around one in five. Break that down to the younger demographic, and the proportion rises sharply, with around a third sporting some form of ink.

In the airline industry, the perspective on tattoos ranges from a blanket ban to be acceptable if they are not visible. According to Paddle Your Own Kanoo, airlines that allow tattoos as long as they are covered by the uniform include Emirates, Etihad, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and EasyJet. Qatar Airways, on the other hand, do not allow any tattoos whatsoever.

A change in the air

In years gone by, flight attendants were very much hired on the basis of appearance. They were hardly more than models in the sky, serving champagne and keeping jet setting businessmen entertained. But, over the years, that role has changed, and today’s flight attendant is much more than the way they look.

A modern flight attendant is responsible for all manner of crucial flight procedures, from keeping inventory and ensuring passenger comfort to maintaining safety on board and assisting in emergencies. Their appearance should be smart, but restrictions on things like their body shape, makeup and heel height are, thankfully, becoming more relaxed.

Norwegian recently opted to remove the need for flight attendants to wear makeup, as well as letting them wear flat shoes. Aer Lingus and Virgin Atlantic have made similar changes, allowing female flight attendants to do away with both skirts and makeup. And Cathay Pacific has relaxed its 70 year long skirts only policy for female cabin crew.

While all these changes are great to see, the decision by Air New Zealand to allow visible tattoos is somewhat unusual. Their situation is rather unique in terms of the cultural and historical significance of tattoos, and we don’t think we’ll be seeing other airlines rushing to follow in their footsteps.

Air New Zealand Tattoos


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