Can You Be a Flight Attendant If You Have Tattoos?

flight attendant tattoo
Photo credits: ink22.tattoo

More and more people are getting tattoos these days, it’s a growing trend, especially with Millennials. But while they may be getting more and more accepted in general society, it’s a different story in the workplace, especially in the airline industry.

In the cabin crew side of aviation, there are very strict policies about staff being ‘inked’.

So how does this affect you? Will it ruin your chances of getting the job if you have a tattoo? And if you do have one, will you be okay if you’re able to hide it? Exactly what is allowed and what isn’t?

Today I’m going to tell you everything you need to know about flight attendants and tattoos. So read on, and let’s see if you meet the standards and requirements needed.

Most airlines don’t allow their Cabin Crew to have any visible tattoos while in their uniforms. Meaning that they could have tattoos on their shoulders, backs, chest but not on their face, neck, and arms. 

So, can a flight attendant have tattoos?

Before I give you the answer, you need to know that I have two tattoos.

They’re small ones of planes (surprise, surprise!) and they are on either side of my torso, so nobody can see them unless I am wearing a bathing suit.

When I am dressed in my flight attendant’s uniform, they are completely hidden.

I have friends and colleagues who have them, either from the time before they joined the airline or if after, had them placed on a part of their body that isn’t visible.

So there is the first answer: if your tattoo is on a nonvisible part of your body, then you are safe.

If this isn’t the case, check the airline’s policy on the matter.

Basically, the smaller and easier to hide, the more chance there is that it will be okay.

airplane tatoo
Tattoos on the back are usually accepted by most airlines (Photo credits: hovig.movsesian)

But why aren’t tattoos allowed on cabin crew?

The answer is simple:  we are the brand’s image.

While you work for the airline and wear their uniform you are the company’s brand ambassador.

Which means that you are representing its image, core values, and beliefs.

If you have a visible tattoo, you might be harming these important things by appearing unprofessional.

Incidentally, the same applies to piercings.

So please be very mindful of this before you get a tattoo after you have started work for your airline.

What seems like a good idea at the time, can have an effect on your career.

Tattoo policies of different airlines

Etihad Airways

No visible tattoos while you’re in the Etihad cabin crew uniform.

And no, you aren’t allowed to hide them with plasters, makeup, or bandages.

Emirates Airways

Pretty much the same thing applies.

As long as it’s not visible you won’t have a problem.

The ETIHAD rule about covering them up applies.

If you’re thinking about applying to ETIHAD or EMIRATES let’s drill this down a bit further:

If you are a female you can’t have tattoos on: head & neck, arms, forearms, wrists & hands, or between the knee and the foot?

If  you’re working for Emirates and are thinking about wearing pants  to hide your tattoos, then I’m afraid it’s bad news –  you can only wear them for medical reasons, such as varicosities, and then only with the companies permission.

The safe zones for females would be: the waist down to the knee area and on the torso.

Males must be tattoo free in the following areas: head & neck, arms, hands & wrists.

You can have a tattoo on your shoulder, torso and upper arm – if it can be hidden with an undergarment t-shirt – and on the feet, legs and thighs.

Qatar Airways

For those who aren’t aware, tattoos are considered haram (forbidden), they alter God’s creation which is strictly forbidden.

Being Qatar a conservative state, the airline does not hire anyone with tattoos.

A physical check is done for new joiners as well as every 5 years.

Most European and American Airlines

The majority of European and American airlines will only permit tattoos if they can be easily hidden/disguised underneath the standard crew uniform.

The general rule is: tattoos must never be visible while in uniform.

But some companies, such as Virgin Atlantic, Easyjet, American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, Southwest and Delta Airlines will allow you to conceal the tattoos using bandage coverings or makeup.

Let’s take a look at  British Airways’  policy as it is written  on their career page:

british airways tatoo policy

Where are cabin crew allowed and not allowed to have tattoos?

This is a general chart to explain what are visible areas for cabin crew, meaning areas where tattoos are not allowed.

But, again,  the policy varies from airline to airline.

Females Males
Head / Face Not allowed Not allowed
Neck Not allowed Not allowed
Arms / Hands Not allowed Not allowed
Thighs/ lower legs *Allowed if not visible Allowed
Ankles / Feet *Allowed if not visible Allowed
Shoulders Allowed Allowed
Chest / torso Allowed Allowed
Back Allowed Allowed

*Females: depending on the airline, if they have the option to wear pants or hide them with stockings, they might be allowed

NOTE: This is very generic so always check with the airline first. 

For example, in September 2019, Air New Zealand announced that they would allow its employees to wear their tattoos as long as they were non-offensive.

All this due to the rejection of a job applicant because she had a Maori tattoo, stating that it could frighten or intimidate some travelers. Now, New Zealanders with Maori heritage wear tattoos (they are called Moko) as a sacred tradition and it is a part of their heritage that they are very proud of. Facial tattoos are often misunderstood and their importance to both the individual and the Maori culture were being overlooked.

After the airline was criticized and accused of discrimination against Maori, they became the world’s first major airline to allow visible tattoos.

wrist tattoo
As cute as it is, this wrist tattoo wouldn’t be allowed in most airlines (Photo credits: __anitart__)
hand tattoo
Not allowed. Despite the fact that it’s very small, it’s on a visible part of the body (Photo credits: minie._.chan)
planet tattoo
Forearm tattoos are usually not accepted by most airlines (Photo credits: mybrazilianpassport)

Are cabin crew allowed to hide their tattoos with plasters or makeup?

Middle East airlines don’t let tattoos to be covered.

If you have one, it has to be in an area that won’t be exposed to the public eye.

On the other hand, airlines such as Wizzair, Ryanair, EasyJet, and many other airlines do not refuse people who are tattooed, as long as they can conceal them either with makeup or a bandage while wearing they are wearing the company’s uniform.

Here’s a video to show you how to hide your tattoos with makeup:

What if I have a tattoo on my back and you can see it through the white shirt?

Most airlines require flight attendants to wear undergarments.

This means a shirt under the uniform so that there’s no chance of being see-through.

So, no worries there, then.

What if I’m a guy and I have a tattoo on my foot?

Men don’t wear skirts nor skin-colored tights/socks.

As long as your pants are long and your socks are dark in color, it isn’t a  problem if you have a tattoo in your foot.

What if I have a small tattoo on my wrist?

Once again, check the policies regarding your airline of choice.

Companies do keep changing their requirements,  but for now, most airlines don’t approve of tattoos in visible areas.

What happens if I lie? Will the airline check if I have tattoos?

By default, when you attend an assessment day a recruiter will ask you if you have any scars or tattoos.

And,  depending on the company, you could be asked to sign a statement saying you don’t have visible tattoos.

In companies like Qatar Airways, a physical check is conducted.

Look, you really do need to be honest with the company about this. In fact, be honest with them in all stages of the employment process. Your lie will be discovered and there will only be one outcome – you will be told to leave.

But, if you did pass the final interview without declaring your tattoo and you are now doing your training, you aren’t out of the woods, not by any means. You will need to keep them hidden from your classmates and colleagues. If they spot one on, for instance, your forearm, there is a good chance that someone will report it to management or the training department, and, as stated above, you’ll be told to go home. End of.

I would recommend that you only attempt to keep the fact that you have a tattoo hidden, is if it is in a place that there is no chance of it being accidentally (or otherwise) revealed, such as on your buttocks or bra area.

What to do if I have a tattoo should I remove it?

This is a personal opinion.

I think that it depends on how big it is and where you have it.

For example, if you are a guy and you have a tattoo on your biceps, and you can hide it with the undergarment, below your uniform shirt, it’s fine.

But if your tattoo is in a visible area that can’t be hidden, e.g.: your neck, forearm, etc and you are desperate to get your dream job but the airline doesn’t permit tattoos, then, yes, you can consider removing it.

But remember that you probably got that tattoo for a personal reason and most probably it has a story behind it.

Obviously, if it was just a piece of stupidity after a few drinks while out on the town, then the decision is a lot easier.

But if the tattoo does have significance and history for you, why not try other companies that are more flexible in their policies?

A tattoo removal procedure can be costly and you might regret it as sometimes does leave a scar.

The cost depends on the size and area, but procedures range between $50 to $500USD and you might have to have more than 3 sessions.

In the end, you are free to choose what’s best for you and if you really want to work in a specific airline,  then you have to do what it takes to reach that goal!

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