Southwest Airlines will soon let flight attendants display tattoos and wear nose piercings in a shakeup of its internal uniform standards policy, which is aimed at mimicking rivals following an outcry from staffers who felt the carrier was struggling to keep up with a wider change across the airline industry.
The updated Uniform Appearance Standards are set to come into force on March 20 at which point flight attendants will be allowed to wear a single nose stud piercing.
Tattoos will also be officially permitted, as long as they are ‘tasteful’ and no bigger than the size of the uniform badge. Face tattoos will remain off limits, as to will larger tattoos such as a full or half ‘sleeve’.
Flight attendants with ‘non-compliant’ tattoos must be able to cover their ink with the standard uniform. Some new hire flight attendants who were still in training were recently terminated when they were discovered with small tattoos on their fingers and wrists.
But while Southwest is relaxing some uniform rules, the carrier is also getting stricter with some of its other appearance standards. Flight attendants will soon be forbidden from having neon-colored fingernails, as well as detailed nail art and vibrant colors like the airline’s very own orange hue.
The policy shakeup was drawn up after the airline recently reminded staffers of its longstanding ban on visible tattoos. Southwest took a rethink after an outcry from staff who pointed to rival airlines that were relaxing their own tattoo policies.
In 2022, United Airlines became one of the first airlines in the United States to allow some visible tattoos, and in recent months Breeze Airways has followed suit by allowing small tattoos on fingers, arms and even behind the ears.
Internationally, Virgin Atlantic made headlines last year when it opened the door to flight attendants to display visible tattoos of any size, as long as the designs weren’t offensive – a determination remains at the discretion of the airline.
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.