Air New Zealand Lifts Ban On Visible Maori Tattoos For Staff


Air New Zealand has reversed its long-established ban on visible tattoos so as not to exclude Māori employees.

Up to now, much like most carriers, Air New Zealand has not accepted applications from anyone with visible tattoos, inluding tā moko – the traditional skin markings made by New Zealand’s indigineous population.

From 1 September, all new and existing staff can have both tā moko and other non-offensive tattoos that you can see when they wear their uniform.

Maori tattoos are often seen on the face. Credit: PA
Maori tattoos are often seen on the face. Credit: PA

Chief executive Christopher Luxon announced this week that the policy was being dropped. Speaking to the New Zealand Herald, he said: “I’m extremely proud to be making this announcement. It reinforces our position at the forefront of the airline industry in embracing diversity and enabling employees to express individuality or cultural heritage.

“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.”

Recently, critics have labelled the tattoo ban as discriminatory, with many pointing out that Air New Zealand as a company uses parts of Māori traditions to promote its business, with the language in its marketing campaigns and its ‘koru’ logo all part of its culture.

The 'koru' is Maori for 'loop' and symbolises new life, growth, strength and peace. Credit: PA
The ‘koru’ is Maori for ‘loop’ and symbolises new life, growth, strength and peace. Credit: PA

To clarify what is acceptable as part of the policy changes, a spokeswoman for Air New Zealand said that tattoos would be treated in the same way that speech is. She said: “In the same way you shouldn’t swear, make hateful comments, lewd jokes, or use violent language in the workplace for example, the same goes for tattoos.

“Where the situation is not clear, we will have a Tattoo Review Panel to assist employees and managers to determine whether a tattoo is aligned with our policy.”

Anyone who has a tattoo that is seen to be offensive or inappropriate, and also which cannot be covered by their work clothes, will not be able to work at the airline.

Seems fair enough?

Air New Zealand recently won an award for diversity and inclusion. Handed out by the International Air Transport Association – the award ‘internationally recognises Air New Zealand as leading the way for diversity and inclusion in the aviation industry, by implementing positive and tangible change in the diversity and inclusion space as part of its diversity agenda.’

It looks like the award was well deserved.

Featured Image Credit: PA

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