American Airlines Issued Controversial New Policy About Facial Hair

American Airlines will no longer allow anyone with a beard or goatee to occupy a jumpseat in the cockpit on a mainline aircraft, citing risk that in the event oxygen masks are needed that facial hair will interfere with full flow of oxygen.

In 1987 the FAA issued an advisory circular warning about a degradation in effectiveness of oxygen masks for those with beards, although these results are disputed.

The pilot rumor mill has some American Airlines pilots saying that they will refuse to fly if all flight attendants have beards, since they are allowed beards but might need to enter the flight deck while a pilot uses the lavatory. Other pilots have complained that American did not consult with their union prior to issuing the policy.

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  1. Even when I flew under the AA umbrella I never even considered flying in the JS unless I was clean shaven. Even though it was permitted it just didn’t seem right. I’m not a proponent of beards in the flight deck even though I fly boxes now.

  2. Disclaimer: I can’t grow more than weedy cabbage patch of a beard so does not apply to me.

    This is horsepucky! My employer has long used this O2 mask excuse to forbid beards. However, just last week I saw two Lufthansa pilots in TLV with thick, well-groomed hipster beards (Luscious you might even say). Surely the methodical, safety-conscious and ever rule following Germans can’t be getting this wrong…..

    It’s the never ending Air Force Base mentality of many in upper Flight Ops positions that causes this to continue. Me=General, You=Lieutenant, Them=Enlisted. Follow Commands.

  3. Perhaps the FAA should require shaved heads too? What if a pilots hair gets in their ears and they can’t hear critical information coming over the radio?

  4. Having been through United States Air Force altitude chamber training, and being an airline pilot instructor, I can see why the beard is not be allowed. The passenger oxygen masks are designed using a chemical reaction to create oxygen. The pilot’s on the other hand, is a pressurized oxygen system…kinda like a scuba tank. The oxygen tank system is considerably heavier and more complicated so many years ago, the airlines switched to the canisters for passenger oxygen. Above a certain altitude, the “scuba tank” pressurized system switches from a re-breathable (like the passenger system) to a full pressurized system. This oxygen system actually forces air into wearer’s lungs. It is difficult to breathe using this system because one has to overcome the pressurized inflow to breathe out. Passengers would not be able to quickly adapt. At high altitudes, there is about a 30 second “time of useful conscientiousness” should the aircraft pressurization fail. The wearing of a beard could…COULD potentially allow the mask not to seat properly on the pilot’s face and allow precious pressurized oxygen to be vented away from the pilot. If the pilots are conscious the chances are that they can continue to control the aircraft to descend to breathable air altitudes not requiring the pressure system. “Usually”… if the plane comes back in one piece…the passengers do too.

  5. Not controversial at all! The Purple and Orange overnight shipper also does not allow beards. Has been that way for over 40 years…

  6. One of the reasons beards are not allowed in the Marine Corps is because of an insufficient seal when using a gas mask against chemical agents.

    A beard can certainly prevent a solid connection with a flight deck style oxygen mask.

  7. The many pilots who suffer from severe , bumps, ingrown hairs (cut open by dermatologist) and excema are told my AA management they have to keep shaving or call in sick. AA manamgent denies ALL Waiver requests. Everywhere work groupnis allowed to have facial hair except the pilots. Equality, unclisiveness, medical discrimination all wrapped up into one archaic policy. The general public doesn’t care. But AA management doubles down on a discriminatory policy . Sad

  8. This is actually bogus science. European carriers allow beards, and there are scientific studies that disprove this.

  9. Chris’s “bogus science” comment is bogus in and of itself. Unless YOU have actually worn the mask and tried pressure breathing…you are full of it. I have and every one of my military pilots have experienced it too. An ill fitting mask, not totally sealed to the skin could (note I said “could” above, too) not seat properly against the skin thus negating the pressure breathing advantages at the 39,000 foot (FL390 to us pilots). Would I trust my life and those of my passengers to your “scientific studies” Hell NO! European carriers are NOT US carriers. I’d love to see your so called “scientific studies”.

  10. It’s okay to just say you have corporate image standards and beards don’t fit the look AA wants it’s pilots to project. No one’s going to die. I promise! A little honesty would be refreshing. This safety reason that they’re citing is really patronizing. No one actually believes this.

  11. I agree. We need to be rising to a higher level of sofistcation, whether we are in a business environment or not. Where ever we go, we are interfacing with some level of business, therefore were ever we go we should always keep a business level mentality. Of course there are different appropriate levels are called for, but I think we should always be displaying a higher level of interactions as we go forward. Clearly that’s not what is happening. From the horrible language used in commercials and everyplace else we go. We should always use our best English and communicate with each other in a respectful manner at all times. Imagine what an alien would think of us if they landed here from another planet. I will tell you, their opinions of us would not be flattering. We should not be promoting downlevel English instead of our lower level street communications and street slang. I think today’s overall English skills are totally embarrassing. And that’s just wrong. You won’t find me speaking to others in that horrible slang. We are headed in the wrong direction. Just listen to the way people communicate with each other. There is a time and place for everything. I say let’s pick it up people.

  12. I feel sorry for the gate agents who are supposed to enforce this when they assign the jump seat to Pilots. Just another headache for them. I suppose they’ll have to start keeping razors at the gate.

  13. I feel sorry for the gate agents who assign the jump seat to Pilots and have to deny boarding. Just another headache for them to deal with. They’ll have to start keeping razors at the gate.

  14. That said, the United States faces a problem most other countries do not. We have people arriving from other countries in the thousands every day. I realize it’s a major transition for them. However instead of coming to America and learning the American way of doing things, they are bringing with them the countries cultures and languages they left behind. When my grandparents came to the US from Italy in the early 1900s, of course they did the same thing. They created pockets of Italian groups with strong Italian culture, beliefs, food and language, they were referred to as Little Italys all over the country. But they were anxious to become Americans and that meant learning to read and write English and that they did. They left New York by train looking for work and homes all over the country. My grandparents all settled in Detroit getting jobs in the very new auto industry, and did very well.They insisted their children learn English, and by the time they had children English was our primary language, while Italian was only spoken at home. My cousins and I never learned to speak Italian, we all thought English was hard enough lol. The point is, Italian became secondary to English which was the way it should be.I don’t see that happening today. I see people on our streets wearing clothes appropriate in the countries they left. There have been times I’ve been out in public and all I hear are foreign languages, and while in public, that is not the way it should be. Countries like Japan, Germany or France don’t have the heavy influx of people that the US does, the people moving to those countries learn the ways of the new country they are in. The US has a problem most other countries dont have. The US culture and way of life is now a mixture of different influences that are now what the US is, and I’m guessing there will come a time when English is spoken by a very few of what will be a minority in this country. I can’t see it turning out any other way. White American men will no longer be the prime demographic it once was. Am I right? Lol, you know I am.

  15. @William Maceri . . . while I agree that aliens from planets far, far away may not like our “best English” when communicating, they might think we taste good.
    Regarding the mask vs beard controversy, let Fauci settle it; he is the world expert when it comes to science.

  16. @Mark smith: You wrote, “Everywhere work group is allowed to have facial hair except the pilots.”
    This explains why I have never seen an American Airlines female pilot with a beard.

  17. Simply put, this is a discriminatory policy. A number of US carriers now allow beards, including Hawaiian airlines. Atlas Air, UPS, and others. Most US part 135 employees allow beards. Even the US Air Force allow beards for those with certain religious practices. The Indian Air Forever allow their fighter pilots to have beards, having a beard is a normal part of being male. To deny male pilots the right to wear a beard is discrimination. They allow cabin crew to wear beards, they allow gate agents, ticket staff, and other customer-facing employees to have beards. They even allow male pilots who claim to be trans to wear long hair and female uniforms. Yet, a male pilot who is capable of growing a beard is denied their right to wear a beard. It’s hypocrisy.

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