Air New Zealand has announced a change in its policy on visible tattoos.
The airline has been under pressure to ease its rules on tattoos, particularly tā moko, for several years.
Chief executive Christopher Luxon has announced a policy change after five months of consultation with staff and customers here and overseas. The airline has enforced its uniform standard when recruiting. Customer-facing staff are not permitted to have tattoos visible when wearing the uniform. But pressure has been mounting on the airline and there is a growing emphasis on gender and cultural diversity.
In March a Whangārei man said Air New Zealand was being hypocritical after turning him down for a role because of his tā moko while covering their uniforms and planes with koru designs.
Sydney Heremaia, 36, had applied for a customer service agent role in February with the national carrier at Whangārei Airport.
While applying online he disclosed that he had a tā moko on his right shoulder, and tatau, a Samoan form of skin art, on his left forearm. Both were not visible while wearing a corporate shirt.
Heremaia said he was then asked to provide photos and to explain the cultural significance of them, which he did.
An Air New Zealand representative then sent him an email that said he was being turned down for the job because “the body art you have declared does not comply with our Uniform Standards for roles wearing the koru uniform”.
It was suggested he could apply for other roles that did not require the koru uniform, but did not say if the tā moko and tatau would be an issue.
Heremaia told the Herald in March they were not “body art” and reflected his culture and heritage.
Heremaia said it was hypocritical for Air New Zealand to not allow tā moko on staff when they used koru designs on their uniforms and planes.
A Human Rights Commission spokeswoman said then a person of Māori descent could not be denied employment, entry to premises, or declined service because they wore moko visibly.
“Traditional Māori moko is an expression and celebration of Māori culture and identity.
The commission’s advice to employers was to use their common sense in identifying moko, rather than seeking to question the authenticity of the moko or the ethnicity of the person with the moko.
Anybody who had been turned away for a job because of their moko could contact the commission for assistance.
In 2013 a Māori woman complained after being turned down for an Air New Zealand air hostess role because of her tā moko.
Air New Zealand said at the time it did not allow them as some passengers “would not feel comfortable”, regardless of whether the tattoos were considered to be cultural or otherwise.
A number of other airlines still have strict rules about tattoos not being visible.
Source: NZ Herald