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Air NZ changes policy to welcome tattooed workforce

June 12, 2019 Headline News No Comments Email Email

Air New Zealand has made changes that will allow all employees, including uniformed staff, to “proudly display their non-offensive tattoos” at work.

The change is largely to cater for the growing number of Maori tā moko (traditional Maori tattoos) amid concern that banning them could constitute discrimination.

Other airlines have stricter codes. Jetstar, for instance, demands its flight attendants be “of professional appearance”, which it says “includes attire, skin, teeth, nails, personal grooming, no visible tattoos or body piercing (one earring per ear is okay)”.

Qantas dictates that any tattoos be covered and never visible when in uniform.

Most airlines have rules similar to Qantas. Emirates’ flight attendant hiring rules stipulate: “No visible tattoos while in Emirates Cabin Crew uniform (cosmetic and bandage coverings not permitted).”

Ai-yi-yi! Striking hand tattoo

Air New Zealand has broken free of all this. From 1 September all new and existing Air New Zealand employees will be able to have tā moko and “non-offensive” tattoos visible when wearing their uniform or normal business attire.

“Non-offensive” presumably excludes gang-related tattoos.

New Zealanders reputedly comprise one of the world’s most tattooed populations. More than one in three New Zealanders under the age of 30 has a tattoo.

At the recent IMEX meetings trade show in Frankfurt, New Zealand made its mark by bringing a traditional Maori tattooist along. Ten international delegates received tā moko – not a temporary version but a real, permanent tat. See: Tattooist gives trade show delegates a permanent souvenir

Air New Zealand chief executive Christopher Luxon said yesterday the airline was committed to building “a diverse and inclusive workplace that truly reflects the makeup of Aotearoa” (Aotearoa – meaning “Land of the Long White Cloud” being the Maori name for New Zealand).

“I’m extremely proud to be making this announcement,” Luxon said.

Is this going too far?

“It reinforces our position at the forefront of the airline industry in embracing diversity and enabling employees to express individuality or cultural heritage.”

The changes follow five months of extensive research with Air New Zealand customers and employees.

“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 who will, for the first time, be able to have non-offensive tattoos visible when wearing their uniforms.

“In conversations we’ve had with customers and our own people domestically and overseas in the past five months, it’s clear that there is growing acceptance of tattoos in New Zealand, particularly as a means of cultural and individual expression. Research indicates one in five adult New Zealanders has at least one tattoo, with more than 35% of under 30s tattooed.”

Mr Luxon says it’s important that the airline keeps up with changes in social norms but it’s still a case of securing the best person for the job.

That’s more like it! Traditional Maori tā moko tattoo

“As New Zealand’s most attractive employer we get a very large number of applications for every available role and the reality is that most applicants are not successful. However, I can guarantee that no one will be turned down because of their tattoo as long as it’s not offensive or inappropriate.

“There is an expectation that Air New Zealand will represent our country and our people authentically to the world and having a workforce who can bring their true selves to work is an important part of that.”

Written by Peter Needham

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