PILOTS WITH TATTOOS – Can Pilots Have Tattoos?

Are you wondering if there are Airline Pilots with tattoos? Can Pilots actually have tattoos – are they allowed to? These are actually very common questions for people to ask who dream to become an Airline Pilot. You’ll find all the answers here!

Going back 40 years and it was quite rare to see people with tattoos – you’d only see them on a very small percentage of the population such as punk rockers or the odd military personnel. These days however tattoos are a lot more common and around a quarter of people have one or more tattoos. Looking at the younger population, this percentage increases a lot, and tattoos are more popular now than ever.

People from all types of social class get tattoos and there is definitely a growing acceptance of tattoos as a means for people to express themselves. They may choose to get tattoos in places that are not obvious and can be easily covered by clothing, whereas other people may choose to get tattoos in more obvious places such as on their forearms, necks or hands that are not as easy to conceal.

Similar to the requirement for Flight Attendants regarding whether Flight Attendants can have tattoos, there are certain requirements when it comes to Pilots with tattoos.

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Are Pilots Allowed To Have Tattoos?

As a general rule of thumb, airlines do not allow for Pilots to have any tattoos that will be visible whilst they are wearing their uniform.

There are reasons for this, as well as some exceptions though. Let’s have a look further.

Why Do Airlines Not Allow Pilots To Have Tattoos?

Many people still hold the belief that having visible tattoos looks unprofessional and therefore people in highly skilled jobs shouldn’t have them on display, despite the fact that whether you have a tattoo or not it won’t affect your ability to perform your job. The job of a Pilot carries a great deal of responsibility – they are responsible for the lives of hundreds of people every day, and being a Pilot is a highly skilled job.

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Airlines want their passengers to have confidence in their Pilots and want the Pilots to be seen as professional. They don’t want this trustworthy image of Pilots to be jeopardised, and so are generally overcautious with their Tattoo Policies so as not to offend any passengers as they know that many passengers, especially in the older generation, still see tattoos as unprofessional.

I Want To Become A Pilot – Can I Get A Tattoo?

If you want to become a Pilot one day, but you also want to get a tattoo, it is advisable to really think about whether you want the tattoo, and where you would want it on your body. If you really want a tattoo I would definitely recommend to get it somewhere where it will not be seen easily – for example on your torso or your back or upper leg. Even your upper arms can become a grey area as Pilots often wear short sleeved shirts.

Despite tattoos being very popular in this day and age, and there being many discrimination laws in place in certain countries, there are still some professions (aviation included) where having a visible tattoo may hold you back or prevent you from getting employed. It’s true that some airlines may be more relaxed about tattoos in certain body areas than others, but you shouldn’t rush into anything as it could really risk your chances of getting your dream job as a Pilot in the future.

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If You Already Have A Tattoo And You Want To Become A Pilot

If you want to become a Pilot and you already have a tattoo that is not visible whilst you would be wearing trousers and a shirt (the standard Pilot uniform), you may be okay. When you go for your Pilot Interview it is best to just not mention the tattoo if it can be easily covered and won’t be visible whilst wearing the Pilot uniform – for example if it is on your back or torso.

If you have a tattoo that will be visible when you are wearing the Pilot uniform, it is advisable to try and get the tattoo laser removed. Tattoo removal by lasering is not as painful or as expensive as it once used to be.

Some areas of the body may be considered ‘grey areas’, as they may be covered in some uniform items but not by others, for example if you have a tattoo on your forearm. If this would be the case you could wear long sleeves to cover the tattoo. This would mean however that you would always have to wear long sleeves and not short sleeves, even if it was really hot. Bear in mind that most airlines will not hire you if they know that you will always have to go out of your way cover up your tattoo for work.

It is advisable to not mention any tattoos, however do note that some airlines will visibly check your arms, and if it is their Pilot Uniform Policy not to have any tattoos on the arms (or other visible body parts), they may not hire you. Especially if you lied and said you had no tattoos.

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Are Some Airlines More Lenient On Pilots With Tattoos?

Some airlines are more lenient than others with Pilots and tattoos. The airlines based in The Middle East for example (especially the big 3: Etihad, Emirates and Qatar), are the most strict ones in terms of what they will and won’t accept as tattoos are considered non-permissible in Islam. In fact, at Qatar Airways, tattoos are not allowed at all, even if they can be easily covered with the uniform.

Regional carriers in the USA and Europe for example, will probably be a lot more laid back. It can really depend on the airline if they will hire you, depending on where your tattoo is and how visible it is.

Which Airlines Allow Pilots To Have Visible Tattoos: Air New Zealand

The first major airline in the world that allowed visible tattoos for all staff, including Pilots and Flight Attendants was Air New Zealand back in 2019. So long as the tattoos aren’t offensive, Pilots, Flight Attendants and any other employees are permitted to have tattoos that are visible whilst wearing their uniform. This can enable employees to express their individuality, or more importantly: their cultural heritage.

New Zealand is home to the Maori people and a big part of their cultural heritage is the traditional Tā Moko ink. In the Maori culture, Tā Moko is a sacred tradition. Facial tattoos in the Maori culture are of particular importance, with women’s tattoos covering the chin and men’s tattoos covering the whole face. Allowing employees to have tattoos in visible places therefore eliminates any discrimination against people of Maori descent.

Seeing as tattoos are an important and historical part of the culture in New Zealand, it makes sense that they have this new tattoo policy. Air New Zealand wants their workplace to reflect the make-up of Aotearoa (New Zealand), and so allowing their employees to express their cultural heritage and individuality through tattoos helps to embrace diversity.

Even if someone isn’t of Maori descent, they would still be allowed visible tattoos, as Air New Zealand have implemented this policy to all employees regardless of genetic makeup. This means that there are more opportunities for those who have visible tattoos that are clearly for decorative purposes.

The situation with New Zealand is fairly unique in terms of the historical and cultural significance of tattoos, and it is very unlikely other airlines will follow in the coming years. Also you can only work at Air New Zealand if you are a citizen of Australia or New Zealand, or if you have Permanent Residency in New Zealand.

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Will A Pilot Be Able To Fly With Visible Tattoos In The Future In More Airlines?

Tattoos are becoming more and more commonplace, so it could be possible be that Tattoo Policies for Pilots and Flight Attendants in certain airlines may be revised in the near future. Especially with each successive generation, the negative stereotypes about people with tattoos gets less and less than what previous generations had, and nowadays there isn’t a negative stigma around tattoos in the younger population. Therefore, who’s not to say that one day it will be more common for Pilots and other professionals to be permitted to have tattoos.

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Summary on Pilots With Tattoos: Can Airline Pilots Have Tattoos?

Most Airlines have a Tattoo Policy that will prevent an Airline Pilot from having tattoos that are visible whilst in uniform. If you want to become a Pilot it is advisable not to get any tattoos as it could impact your future employment. If you really want a tattoo, at least get one in a place where it definitely won’t be visible, such as your back or torso.

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