Lonely Planet Writer

Air New Zealand has reversed its tattoo ban for staff

As part of the company’s diversity and inclusion programmes, Air New Zealand has announced a policy change that allows staff to have visible tattoos, providing they are deemed to be non-offensive.

Air New Zealand has announced a policy change that allows staff to have visible tattoos. Image by Rafael Ben-Ari/Getty Images

Following a five-month research period, the airline has acknowledged that attitudes towards tattoos have changed, and has recognised the important cultural role that tattoos play in New Zealand. This is particularly important for tā moko – facial markings traditionally worn by Māori as a symbol of their identity.

Tā moko are markings that hold great significance for the wearer, often telling stories about the individual, their family, and their heritage. It’s considered a symbol of integrity and identity within Māori culture.

Air New Zealand has reversed its ban on tattoos. Image by Xinhua News Agency / Getty Images

The airline has been accused of hypocrisy in the past for using Māori symbols in its marketing and on its planes, while refusing employment to those with the culturally significant facial markings, reports the New Zealand Herald.

Previously the airline has also been criticised by prospective employees for asking them to declare any tattoos on their body, even those that would be completely covered by business clothing or staff uniform. Newshub reports that applicants sent in photos of their tattoos as part of the recruitment process and subsequently had their applications turned down.

In March, both Virgin Atlantic and Aer Lingus relaxed the dress codes for female staff, who are no longer required to wear skirts or make-up as part of their uniform.