Budget airline Southwest Airlines has begun to expel new flight attendants undergoing training, after the carrier’s management tightened the requirements for compliance with its long-standing ban on visible tattoos.
In its internal message, the airline warned trainee flight attendants that any tattoos on fingers, hands, face or neck would result in immediate expulsion.
Tough measures also apply to those flight attendants who will try to hide their tattoos with cosmetics. In recent weeks, there have been several reports that new flight attendants are being fired while still at school.
Airlines around the world are known for their strict uniform standards. These standards prohibit flight attendants from displaying tattoos that cannot be hidden by this very uniform. However, in the last couple of years, these traditional rules have begun to soften, and Southwest flight attendants apparently expected their employer to follow the general practice.
In 2022, United Airlines became one of the first airlines in the United States to allow some visible tattoos, and a few months ago, Breeze Airways followed United’s example, turning a blind eye to small tattoos on fingers, hands and even behind the ears.
Virgin Atlantic made headlines last year when it allowed flight attendants to display tattoos of any size, provided that the drawings should not be offensive. The decision remains at the discretion of the airline.
However, there is not a single airline that would allow flight attendants to have a tattoo on their neck or face.
Air New Zealand may remain the only carrier that currently permits facial tattoos – largely due to the adoption of Tā Moko, a form of tattoos traditionally practiced by the indigenous population of the Maori country and often applied to the face.
In 2021, Canadian airlines were ordered that they could not prohibit flight attendants from displaying visible tattoos, but an independent arbitration drew a line under tattoos on the face and neck. Air Canada and Westjet can also fire flight attendants if they find their body drawings offensive