The trouble with tattoos

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By on Tuesday 11th Jun, 2013 at 16:56

Are they or aren’t they allowed? This seems to be a massive grey area for young men and women who have chosen cabin crew as their career, but already have tattoos or would like to get some ink.

While it’s widely considered that you will be OK with tattoos so long as they are ‘not visible’ – i.e. they are safely hidden under the uniform – many hiring airlines do ask applicants at first interview if they have any tattoos at all, and contributors to our forum and Facebook have certainly failed to get beyond the first stage once they’ve talked about their tattoos, even if they’re positioned on shoulders, back, stomach.

Others who have kept quiet about discreet tattoos have got through without a problem – which does seem an unfair situation, and confusing for those going through the selection process!

There are even cases where people with visible tattoos say they get by with plasters and cover-up make-up. So it seems there are many degrees of tolerance about tattoos across the world of aviation.

So what to do about your tattoos?

The broad advice is that most airlines like to adopt a minimal approach when it comes to their cabin crew having tattoos. Some have had to relax their ‘no tattoos at all’ policy to comply with discrimination laws. The main thing to remember is that any visible tattoos are likely to be refused as they can appear to be untidy, and in some cultures tattoos are more frowned upon than others. In Japan tattoos are associated with the Japanese mafia, for instance.

Tattoos that can be covered by uniform and shoes may be OK but the advice from experts is that it’s worth checking with the airline where you're thinking of applying, to clarify exactly what their policy is. HR officers should be able to tell you this, or you may even be able to find details on the careers section of the airline's website. For instance Emirates mentions tattoos on the Emirates Group Careers Centre site.

Airlines all have slightly different policies

The majority of airlines seem to want no tattoos at all, and their argument for this is that, if a new uniform is designed – say with shorter sleeves, or a thinner material – it could mean tattoos on existing staff will be revealed. ‘Hidden’ tattoos might also be visible through a white top, which is not a look they will approve of. Daniel says on our Facebook page: “Ryanair do not allow any visible tattoos. Only those that can be covered by the uniform are allowed.”

One comment on a forum discussing cabin crew tattoos says Singapore Airlines has been known to check female flight attendants for tattoos by having them appear in swimsuits.

According to one of the forum members: “I had a Monarch assessment day recently and they asked about tattoos. But they not only asked about visible tattoos but hidden ones as well! They asked if I had any hidden ones as they said they can sometimes be seen through the shirt. This surprised me and might be worth bearing in mind for those with tattoos who want to apply for Monarch.”

Another cabin crew member says of Emirates: ”In the past Emirates has asked if you have any tattoos. However, based on my experience, they always asked "do you have tattoos that will be visible in uniform" rather than if you have any in general. Furthermore, they ask you to sign a statement saying "I dont have any tattoos that are visible in uniform" and there is a diagram of a person with areas that are unacceptable for tattoos. It is lower arms, legs mid-calf down, and the neck.”

Easyjet is also slightly more flexible when it comes to tattoos. James says on our Facebook page: “Easyjet will issue long sleeved shirts if you have visible tattoos on your arms and wrist.”

Tattoo removal

Laser treatment for tattoo removal is one option for wannabe cabin crew but this can be costly and it can take some time, and leave you skin looking less than perfect.
There are also products available to cover up tattoos – special make up and patches – although reviews suggest these aren’t always effective. Tattoo make up may require several layers and then can rub off over time, or fail completely to cover a bright tattoo. Stage make up is another option to try, but as many cabin crew employees have said, tricking an airline at interview into thinking you’re tattoo-free could lead to dismissal and disappointment later on!

What seems clear is that airlines are not likely to relax their rules completely about tattoos in the near future.

Browse our cabin crew jobs today.

Article written by Alison Clements
Photo: Jinny the Squinny on flickr