Air New Zealand Lifts Staff Tattoo Ban Over Fears of Māori Discrimination

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Air New Zealand has now lifted a ban which will allow staff members to ‘proudly’ show their tattoos while at work.

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This decision has come about after the New Zealand based airline faced criticism for appearing to discriminate against those with traditional Māori tattoos, despite using the Māori ‘koru’ symbol in its logo.

From September 1 onwards, Air New Zealand employees will be permitted to display their body art while on the job, so long as the tattoo isn’t deemed ‘offensive or inappropriate’.

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Air New Zealand drop tattoo ban.Wikimedia Commons

Some people in New Zealand with indigenous Māori heritage choose to express their culture by having traditional, sacred tattoos.

However, Air New Zealand’s previous hiring policy – which prohibited staff members from having visible body ink – prevented many indigenous citizens for applying for jobs at the airline.

As reported by The New Zealand Herald, Air New Zealand chief executive, Christopher Luxon, has made the following statement regarding the policy update:

I’m extremely proud to be making this announcement. It reinforces our position at the forefront of the airline industry in embracing diversity and enabling employees to express individuality or cultural heritage.

We want to liberate all our staff, including uniform wearers such as cabin crew, pilots and airport customer service teams, who will, for the first time, be able to have non-offensive tattoos visible when wearing their uniforms.

Luxon has emphasised the importance of the airline keeping up with social norms, while striving to find the best talent, telling The New Zealand Herald:

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As New Zealand’s most attractive employer, we get a very large number of applications for every available role and the reality is that most applicants are not successful.

There is an expectation that Air New Zealand will represent our country and our people authentically to the world and having a workforce who can bring their true selves to work is an important part of that.

This updated hiring policy has been widely praised, with the Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson commending the airline for changing its attitude towards tattoos.

As reported by The New Zealand Herald, Davidson said:

Tā moko is an identity marker, not offensive ‘body art’, and I am pleased that Air New Zealand will finally be leaving these attitudes in the past,” she said.

This type of discrimination is completely at odds with their brand and the work they have done to promote Māori culture on their services. It’s great that they responded positively to feedback and will be ditching this policy.

Māori cultural heritage needs to be understood as unique to Aotearoa and celebrated in all situations.

The International Air Transport Association recently honoured Air New Zealand with the inaugural diversity and inclusion award, describing its diversity programmes as being ‘authentic, impressive and a source of inspiration for other global airlines’.

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