It seems like everyone has a tattoo nowadays. Our attitude towards tattoos has become a lot more accepting in the last ten years. But the majority of global airlines – including Emirates, Etihad, Qatar Airways and British Airways still have very strict Cabin Crew tattoo policies.
Go back a couple of decades and it was rare to see anyone with a tattoo. Getting yourself inked was a symbol of belonging to a special group – the military, a gang or some other niche group in society.
In recent years, however, tattoos have become increasingly accepted. In the USA, nearly a quarter (24%) of Americans have a tattoo. The United Kingdom isn’t far behind with around 19% of the population sporting a tattoo.
For young people, those figures are even higher. In America, 32% of 18-45-year-olds have at least one tattoo. And whilst having a tattoo is still considered a taboo in some countries, the overall trend is towards acceptance and appreciation.
But there is one area that hasn’t caught up with this change in attitudes – Research has consistently shown that employers – and especially airlines – discriminate against prospective candidates who have tattoos. In a study carried out by Kings College London, researchers concluded that “tattoos are still considered unacceptable in many workplaces.”
Most airlines have very strict guidelines when it comes to their Cabin Crew tattoo policy. That doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t have any tattoos but ones that are ‘visible’ will normally stop you becoming a flight attendant. The Cabin Crew tattoo rules for some of the major tattoos are summarised below:
Where are Cabin Crew allowed (and not allowed) to have tattoos?
Most airlines don’t allow their Cabin Crew to have any visible tattoos in the red coloured areas.
Are Emirates Cabin Crew Allowed to have tattoos?
The simple answer is yes, Emirates have the same policy as many international airlines and allow Cabin Crew to have tattoos as long as they are not visible when wearing the airline uniform.
Other airlines with the same policy include Etihad Airways, flydubai, Air Arabia, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, EasyJet, Qantas, Virgin Australia and Jetstar.
What does ‘visible tattoos’ mean?
This depends on your gender and the airline uniform. However, ‘visible’ parts of the body can be generalised as follows…
- Head and neck
- Top of the arms down to hands and wrists
- Top of knees down to ankles and feet.
- Head and neck
- Top of arms down to hands and wrists
If the tattoo is not completely covered by the uniform then it is ‘visible’.
Also, bear in mind that even if you have a tattoo on an area that is not ‘visible’ – such as your back or chest – the airline might still make you comply with extra rules. A lot of airlines have white uniform shirts and tattoos would be visible underneath. You’ll, therefore, be expected to wear a white undershirt.
Can I just cover a visible tattoo?
Covering a visible tattoo with a bandage, plaster or makeup is not allowed. If you have a tattoo (no matter how small) in one of the areas outlined above, most airlines will not allow you to become Cabin Crew with them.
If you have a really small tattoo on your ankle or wrist then it might be tempting to keep it secret and hope no one finds out. Please don’t try to do this – If the airline discovers the tattoo they will most likely terminate your contract immediately.
The Middle East airlines do still physically examine new joiners and tattoos will be found. You’ll then be expected to pay your own airfare home and repay all the costs associated with hiring you.
Are there any exceptions?
Some airlines will allow Cabin Crew to have arm tattoos if they can be covered up. You’ll need to wear a long-sleeved undershirt and long-sleeved uniform shirt at all times.
You should check with your chosen airline to see if they allow this. The airline will need to see photos of your tattoos to see if they comply with their rules. An arm tattoo that reaches all the way down to the wrist will not normally be accepted.
Does Qatar Airways allow Cabin Crew to have tattoos?
No. Qatar Airways does not allow Cabin Crew to have any tattoos – whether visible or not. The State of Qatar follows a strict interpretation of Islam and tattoos are considered Haram (forbidden). As a state-owned company, Qatar Airways does not hire flight attendants with any tattoos.
What if I have my visible tattoos removed?
Even with the implications on future employment opportunities, most people don’t regret having a tattoo. In one recent survey, only 14% of British adults with a tattoo regretted it.
But if you decide that you would rather pursue a career a flight attendant then you might consider having your tattoo removed. Don’t be tempted to buy chemical home removal kits. These are sometimes sold as quick and painless creams and gels but have been linked to severe burns and can result in permanent scarring.
Instead, invest in a professional and reputable laser removal service. We spoke with the folks at ‘Ink Revoke Tattoo Removal’ in Colorado to find out more about tattoo removal costs and what you should expect. “Effective and safe removal of professional tattoos requires between 7 and 12 laser treatments,” explained a spokesperson.
He continued: “Per treatment pricing can range between $50 and $500, depending on the size and complexity of the tattoo.”
As long as the tattoo removal is completely finished and you are scar free then you should face no barriers.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.