In summer 2021 United Airlines relaxed its appearance standards for flight attendants, allowing tattoos that were no longer than the company’s work badge. Male flight attendants were allowed to wear makup and nail polish, and have hair longer than their short collar. The airline said they wanted to “empower” employees “to represent themselves in the way they feel most confident.”
Then in summer 2022 Virgin Atlantic started allowing flight attendants to show off their tattoos. Alaska Airlines made a similar change.
It’s no coincidence that these changes occurred at a time where it was difficult to recruit employees, where pay outside the airline industry was rising (so flight attendant compensation was less competitive) and when flight benefits were harder than ever to use with increasingly full flights.
Southwest Airlines, on the other hand, has reportedly been dismissing flight attendants from training over their tattoos. On the one hand, other airlines aren’t particularly permissive about tattoos on the face and neck either. On the other, Southwest’s rule applies even when these tattoos can be covered with makeup.
It seems like tattoos is something that might come up during a flight attendant’s initial interview, rather than waiting until training to be kicked out over it. It’s also an odd place for Southwest to make a stand, considering the informality of their crew compared to some other airlines. However flight attendants with certain tattoos may find a more welcoming home in training with other carriers.
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