Air Canada has been told that it can’t stop flight attendants having a tattoo that will be visible while wearing the airline’s uniform as long as the tattoo is not offensive and it is not on the face or neck. The Toronto-based airline has also been told by a labour arbitrator that it must allow flight attendants to have piercings on top of the single pair of simple stud earrings that are currently permitted.
Flight attendants must comply with Air Canada’s strict personal appearance policy which, until now, banned visible tattoos for fear that the airline’s reputation might be damaged. The airline also claimed the policy ensured that the views and values of its customers were “respected when being served by cabin crew members.”
The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), which represents Air Canada flight attendants, took offence to the policy and filed a grievance against Air Canada and Air Canada Rouge in 2019 claiming it was both unreasonable and discriminatory and that there was no evidence that tattoos can “interfere with the ability of cabin personnel to perform their duties”.
A Canada Labour Code arbitrator has finally ruled on the matter and found in favour of the flight attendant union, telling Air Canada to significantly alter its personal appearance policy according to Blacklock’s Reporter.
Discreet tattoos, visible in uniform, are now permitted as long as they are not offensive and “have no connection to nudity, hatred, violence, drugs, alcohol, discrimination, or harassment”. Tattoos must not be on the head, unless directly behind the ears, or on the neck.
Visible henna art is also permitted when worn “in connection with any religious, cultural or celebratory reason.”
Nose studs will finally be permitted but must fit flush for safety reasons, while ear expanders will remain forbidden.
In 2019, Air New Zealand is believed to have become the first airline in the world to allow its flight attendants and other uniform wearers to have visible tattoos – including on the face.
“We want to liberate all our staff including uniform wearers such as cabin crew, pilots and airport customer service teams,” commented Air New Zealand’s then chief executive Christopher Luxon.
“It reinforces our position at the forefront of the airline industry in embracing diversity and enabling employees to express individuality or cultural heritage,” Luxon continued.
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.