Air New Zealand inks new deal on staff tattoos

June 10, 2019
tattoos Air New Zealand
An example of a traditional Maori tattoo. Photo : Tourism New Zealand.

Air New Zealand has bowed to pressure to relax a long-standing ban on visible tattoos to allow staff to display their non-offensive ink at work.

Tattoos have deep cultural significance to New Zealand’s Maori population and the AirNZ policy meant people with visible markings were unable to take up frontline positions.

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The airline had come under criticism over the ban given the use of Maori culture,  including its signature Koru motif, in its branding.

It announced Monday this would change from September 1 when all new and existing Air New Zealand employees will be able to have Maori Tā Moko and non-offensive tattoos visible when wearing their uniform or normal business attire.

The decision came after five months of consultation with customers and employees as well as research indicating one in five New Zealanders had at least one tattoo with the figure rising to 35 percent for those aged under 30.

Air New Zealand chief executive Christopher Luxon said the airline was committed to building a diverse and inclusive workplace that reflected the country’s makeup.

Luxon said the announcement reinforced Air NZ’s position “at the forefront of the airline industry in embracing diversity and enabling employees to express individuality or cultural heritage”.

“We felt it was important that this change apply equally to all Air New Zealanders,’’ he said.

“ 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.”

While Luxon said it was important that the airline kept up with changes in social norms,  it was still a case of securing the best person for the job.

But he said he could guarantee that no one would 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,” he said.