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Virgin Atlantic Becomes First British Airline to Let Cabin Crew Display Visible Tattoos

Virgin Atlantic Becomes First British Airline to Let Cabin Crew Display Visible Tattoos

Virgin Atlantic has become the first airline in the UK to let cabin crew, pilots and other uniform wearers display visible tattoos at work. Until now, the airline made employees cover up arm and leg tattoos, while workers were completely barred from having tattoos on body parts that couldn’t be completely covered.

The decision comes just over a month after the airline announced it would let male cabin crew wear non-discreet makeup for the first time as part of a push to “champion individuality” at the Crawley-based airline.

Virgin Atlantic staff pictured with their tattoos on show as the airlines relates tattoo restrictions for their cabin crew and uniformed colleagues.

Virgin Atlantic’s chief people officer, Estelle Hollingsworth, said the policy shift on tattoos would help the airline attract talent at a time when the entire aviation industry is struggling to recruit enough staff causing travel chaos.

“At Virgin Atlantic, we want everyone to be themselves and know that they belong,” Hollingsworth said. “Many people use tattoos to express their unique identities and our customer-facing and uniformed colleagues should not be excluded from doing so if they choose.”

Most employees will be allowed to display arm, wrist and leg tattoos but the airline hasn’t yet committed to allowing cabin crew to have neck or face tattoos. Hollingsworth says the airline will revisit this rule and might relax the restriction at a later date.

Tattoos that contain profanity, nudity or violence, or are otherwise deemed offensive will also remain off-limits. Gang and prison-style tattoos also remain banned.

The policy shift follows similar rule changes at several major international airlines including United Airlines which updated its grooming standards last summer. United updated its rule book as part of a commitment to introduce “inclusive standards that better permit freedom of gender expression”.

In June 2019, Air New Zealand became the very first major carrier to allow visible tattoos amongst uniform wearers. The Aotearoa flag carrier introduced the change primarily in order not to exclude workers who had  Tā Moko – a traditional form of Māori tattooing.

Last year, a Canadian labour arbitrator ruled that Air Canada could not bar uniform wearers from displaying visible tattoos as long as they weren’t offensive and didn’t cover the neck or face.

In 2019, Virgin Atlantic became the first major British airline to drop mandatory makeup rules for female cabin crew and in recent years allowed female crew the option to wear trousers and flat shoes.

Virgin Atlantic hasn’t, however, revealed any plans for gender-neutral uniforms and all uniform items are strictly segregated by gender.  For example, a non-binary staff employee born as a man or a male-identifying crew member would not be allowed to carry a handbag because these are only given to female-identifying staffers. 

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