Air New Zealand is breaking the airline mould with a decision to allow all staff including public-facing uniform wearers like cabin crew, pilots and ground agents to have Tā Moko, as well as non-offensive tattoos visible. Up until now, Air New Zealand, like nearly every other airline in the world, only permitted staff to have tattoos if they were hidden while wearing uniform.
In recent years, some airlines have slightly relaxed their policies, allowing smaller tattoos to be covered with makeup or cosmetic bandages but the decision by Air New Zealand is by far the most open and progressive. The airline said the decision came about from a commitment to embrace diversity and inclusivity – especially in light of the cultural significance of Tā Moko, which is a traditional form of Māori tattooing.
“I’m extremely proud to be making this announcement. It reinforces our position at the forefront of the airline industry in embracing diversity and enabling employees to express individuality or cultural heritage,” explained Air New Zealand’s chief executive, Christopher Luxon.
“We felt it was important that this change apply equally to all Air New Zealanders. We want to liberate all our staff including uniform wearers such as cabin crew, pilots and airport customer service teams,” he continued.
The policy change came about after five months of consultation with staff and passengers – Luxon noted that customers are becoming increasingly accepting of tattoos and that recent research suggests one in five New Zealander’s have at least one tattoo. For the under 30’s category, more than 35% have a tattoo.
Separate studies in both the United States and the United Kingdom has revealed similar findings.
” I can guarantee that no one will be turned down because of their tattoo as long as it’s not offensive or inappropriate,” Luxon said of the change, explaining that it was important people could bring their “true selves” to work.
In the last few months, Virgin Atlantic also significantly altered its own uniform and grooming policy, citing the need to celebrate diversity and allow staff the freedom to represent themselves.
Last year, Air New Zealand launched a competition to design a new uniform that is expected to be rolled out in 2021. At the time, the airline questioned whether gender-specific uniforms would still be relevant.