Air NZ accused of tattoo ‘double standard’

by Rose Sneyd29 May 2013

Air New Zealand has been accused of dashing the dreams of a young mother who wanted to become an air hostess, terminating her interview on the discovery of her ta moko.

Claire Nathan told Maori TV show Native Affairs that she applied for what she described as her ‘dream job’ in January, and her interview last month initially went well. However, when asked to fill out a form that required her to declare the traditional Maori tattoo on her lower arm, things took a turn for the worse.

“I thought that they would be quite proud to have someone with a ta moko working and representing New Zealand,” Nathan told Native Affairs. But this was not the case. Nathan was told that because she wouldn’t be able to cover the tattoo that they’d have to stop the interview.

“I was totally shocked and just couldn’t believe what I was hearing,” Nathan said. She called the response a ‘double standard’ since the airline uses the koru as its logo. It has also been noted that the heavily tattooed singer Gin Wigmore and numerous All Blacks with tattoos have appeared in advertisements for the airline.

Air New Zealand responded by saying that tattoos were often seen as ‘frightening’ or ‘intimidating’, the New Zealand Herald reported. “Naturally we want all of our customers to feel comfortable and happy … and this has been a key driver of our grooming standard which, like many other international airlines, prevents customer-facing staff from having visible tattoos.”

However, the airline’s stance on tattoos isn’t shared by everyone. At Telecom New Zealand, for instance, the only specific dress code policy governs the retail stores, since this is the only ‘customer-facing’ aspect of the business. “What the policy says it that body art or tattoos should be covered at all times…Tattoos on the face or hands are in breach,” Richard Llewellyn, of Telecom, said. However, in the case of tattoos that are adopted for cultural reasons, these would not be in breach of Telecom’s policy.

“My view is that the tattoo would be able to be covered and if it couldn’t there is a strong cultural reason for it,” Llewellyn said.

Similarly, New Zealand Post does not have a policy regarding tattoos as part of their recruitment process. "[However,] in some cases tattoos are covered up as appropriate according to the different roles people hold within the organisation," Jaimee Burke, New Zealand Post spokesperson, said.

According to the Human Rights Commission, a person of Māori descent cannot be denied employment because they visibly wear moko. "The Commission's general advice to ... employers is to use their common sense in identifying a moko, rather than seeking to question the authenticity of the moko or the ethnicity of the person with the moko," the commission's website states.


  • by 1/10/2013 1:50:33 PM

    Tattoos are rarely ever frightening, prejudice always is.

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