Virgin Atlantic has become the first airline in the United Kingdom to allow visible tattoos on cabin crew, pilots, and other uniformed employees.
Until today, the airline required employees to conceal tattoos on their arms and legs, and employees were prohibited from having tattoos on any body region that could not be entirely covered.
The announcement comes just over a month after the airline announced that male cabin staff members would be allowed to wear non-discreet makeup for the first time as part of an effort to “promote individuality” at the Crawley-based carrier.
Estelle Hollingsworth, Virgin Atlantic’s chief people officer, said the tattoo policy change would help the airline attract talent at a time when the entire aviation industry is struggling to hire enough workers, causing travel chaos.
“At Virgin Atlantic, we want everyone to be themselves and know that they belong,” Hollingsworth said. “Many people use tattoos to express their unique identities and our customer-facing and uniformed colleagues should not be excluded from doing so if they choose.”
Most staff will be able to have tattoos on their arms, wrists, and legs, but the airline has yet to commit to allowing cabin crew to have tattoos on their necks or faces. According to Hollingsworth, the airline will review the rule and may relax the ban in the future.
Tattoos with profanity, nudity, or violence, or that are otherwise judged offensive, shall be prohibited. Tattoos with gang or jail themes are also prohibited.
The policy shift follows similar rule changes at several major international airlines including United Airlines which updated its grooming standards last summer. United updated its rule book as part of a commitment to introduce “inclusive standards that better permit freedom of gender expression”.
Air New Zealand became the first major airline to allow visible tattoos on uniform wearers in June 2019. The move was made by the Aotearoa flag carrier to ensure that workers with T Moko — a traditional form of Mori tattooing – were not excluded.
A Canadian labor arbitrator concluded last year that Air Canada could not prohibit uniform wearers from having visible tattoos as long as they were not objectionable and did not cover the neck or face.
Virgin Atlantic became the first major British airline to remove stringent cosmetics requirements for female cabin staff members in 2019 and has permitted female cabin crew members to wear pants and flat shoes in recent years.
Virgin Atlantic, on the other hand, hasn’t revealed any intentions for gender-neutral uniforms, and all uniform elements are gender-specific. For example, because handbags are only supplied to female-identifying workers, a non-binary staff employee born as a man or a male-identifying crew member would not be allowed to carry one.
Photo cover by: Virgin Atlantic