Aviation

Air New Zealand lifts staff tattoo ban and embraces self-expression

Air New Zealand will lift its ban on body art, allowing all employees to proudly display their “non-offensive tattoos” at work.

The announcement comes after the airline was criticised over its prior policy from culture and rights advocates who said that it discriminated against Maori employees for not allowing them to display their Tā Moko, as reported by ABC News.

From 1 September, all new and existing Air New Zealand employees will be able to have body art and tattoos visible when wearing their uniform or normal business attire.

Air New Zealand CEO Christopher Luxon said the change reinforces the airline’s position as being committed to building a diverse workplace in Aoetearoa.

“I’m extremely proud to be making this announcement … in embracing diversity and enabling employees to express individuality or cultural heritage,” he said.

Air New Zealand CEO Christopher Luxon.

The change follows five months of extensive research between Air New Zealand, its customers and employees.

“We felt it was important that this change apply equally to all Air New Zealanders,” Luxon said.

“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.

“In conversations we’ve had with customers and our own people domestically and overseas … it’s clear that there is growing acceptance of tattoos in New Zealand, particularly as a means of cultural and individual expression.

“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.”

Air New Zealand has been criticised for its tattoo policy in the past, with reports the airline discriminated against Maori applicants wearing culturally sacred tattoos on their faces or arms – also representing genealogy – by restricting them from applying for roles with the company.

Tania Te Whenua, head of Te Whenua Law and Consulting, which provides Maori cultural advice to organisations, told ABC News that New Zealand companies, particularly those that profit from using Maori culture in international marketing campaigns, should respect the cultural rights of their staff.

“That’s a shortcoming of the embracing of Maori culture and other cultures by organisations only so far as it’s profit-making … that makes it particularly egregious for Maori,” she said.

Air New Zealand
The airline draws on the Maori language in its marketing campaigns and uses the “koru” – an integral symbol in Māori art – in its logo and on the tail of its plane.

Earlier this month, Air New Zealand won the Diversity and Inclusion Team award from the International Air Transport Association, earning $25,000 in prize money. The airline’s nomination video is available for viewing here.

In a statement, the airline told ABC News it would “put a focus on cultural competency within all areas of the business” and work towards increasing the number of Maori and Pasifika employees in leadership roles, “setting a target of 20 per cent by 2022”.

Air New Zealand was also recently awarded most reputable brand on the Reputation Institute’s Australian Corporate Reputation Index for the third year in a row.

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