Air New Zealand says it will now allow staff to display Maori tattoos. Picture: Supplied
Air New Zealand says it will now allow staff to display Maori tattoos. Picture: Supplied

Airline drops ‘hypocritical’ staff rule

Air New Zealand has announced changes so all staff able can "proudly" display their non-offensive tattoos at work - reversing a controversial longstanding policy.

From September 1, all new and existing Air New Zealand staff will be able to have tā moko and/or non-offensive tattoos visible when wearing their uniform or normal business dress, the New Zealand Herald reports.

Chief executive Christopher Luxon said the airline was committed to building a diverse and inclusive workplace that truly reflected the make-up of the country.

"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," Mr Luxon said.

 

Air New Zealand has reversed its controversial policy on tattoos.
Air New Zealand has reversed its controversial policy on tattoos.

 

 

The changes follow five months' research with Air New Zealand customers and employees - and several high-profile cases of applicants missing out on roles because of visible tattoos.

In March, 36-year-old Sydney Heremaia told local media he had applied for a job with the company only to be rejected because his markings, which included a tā moko and Samoan tatau, "did not comply" with uniform rules.

The airline has been accused of hypocrisy for promoting the koru logo while preventing staff with tattoos from displaying them.

Mr Luxon said it was important this change applied equally to all Air New Zealand staff.

"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," he said.

Research indicated one in five adult New Zealanders had at least one tattoo, with more than 35 per cent of those under 30 being inked.

 

 

Air New Zealand’s ‘koru’ uniform, named after the traditional koru print. Picture: Air New Zealand
Air New Zealand’s ‘koru’ uniform, named after the traditional koru print. Picture: Air New Zealand

 

"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," Mr Luxon said.

The CEO said it was important for the airline to keep up with change in social norms, but it was still a case of securing the best person for the job.

"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," he said.

"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."

 

 

‘Non-offensive’ tattoos are now allowed at Air New Zealand.
‘Non-offensive’ tattoos are now allowed at Air New Zealand.

 

New Zealand's Green Party has commended Air New Zealand for updating a hiring policy it called discriminatory.

The party's co-leader Marama Davidson said she had been shocked to hear of people still being denied job interviews for wearing their whakapapa on their skin.

"Tā moko is an identity marker, not offensive 'body art', and I am pleased that Air New Zealand will finally be leaving these attitudes in the past," she said.

"This type of discrimination is completely at odds with their brand and the work they have done to promote Māori culture on their services. It's great that they responded positively to feedback and will be ditching this policy.

"Māori cultural heritage needs to be understood as unique to Aotearoa and celebrated in all situations."

This article originally appeared on the New Zealand Herald and was reproduced with permission



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