Southwest Airlines has begun laying off newly hired flight attendants even as they near the end of their training after the airline decided to tighten enforcement of its longstanding ban on visible uniform tattoos.
In an internal social media post reported by view from the wingTrainee flight attendants were warned that any tattoo on fingers, hands, face or neck would result in immediate discharge from training.
The harsh application action would hold even if the flight attendants are able to cover their tattoos with makeup. In recent weeks, there have been several reports of newly hired flight attendants being laid off while still in training school.
Airlines are known for their strict uniform standards which have traditionally prohibited flight attendants from displaying visible tattoos while wearing the uniform. But in recent years, those rules have begun to be relaxed, and Southwest flight attendants hoped their employer would do the same.
In 2022, United Airlines became one of the first airlines in the United States to allow some visible tattoos, and in recent months, Breeze Airways has followed suit by allowing small tattoos on fingers, arms, and even behind the ears. .
Internationally, Virgin Atlantic made headlines last year when it opened the door for flight attendants to display visible tattoos of any size, as long as the designs weren’t offensive; a determination is at the discretion of the airline.
Generally speaking, though, even airlines that have relaxed their tattoo policies haven’t gone as far as allowing flight attendants to display ink on their necks or faces.
Air New Zealand is arguably the only airline currently allowing face tattoos, due in large part to its acceptance of Tā Moko (a form of tattooing traditionally practiced by Maori and often worn on the face).
In 2021, Canadian airlines were told they couldn’t prevent flight attendants from displaying visible tattoos, but an independent arbitrator drew the line on face and neck tattoos. Airlines such as Air Canada and Westjet may also reject tattoos that they deem offensive.
Southwest Airlines did not immediately respond to comments.
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