Air New Zealand has been widely criticised for turning away an aspiring stewardess with a moko in the skin of her forearm. In response the airline says it is reviewing its policy. It will be weighing up whether the woman’s complaint has done more harm to its public image than tattooed cabin attendants might do to its business. In other words, it must assess whether the tolerance people profess in public truly represents their feelings. …
Nobody outside Air New Zealand is in a position to question its commercial judgment. Critics do not depend for their salaries on the airline’s success in a competitive international market. Air New Zealand managers have the best incentive to assess the true reaction of most people to tattoos and the company’s decision on whether to maintain its ban on visible tattoos will be a reliable indicator of how society really regards this fashion among younger people today.
Many of their critics have accused the company of hypocrisy since the rejected tattoo was a Maori motif and Air New Zealand brands itself with a koru. They missed the point. The aversion of many people to tattoos goes deeper than the subject drawn, it is the act of deliberate and permanent disfigurement as they see it, that they find appalling.
I think this is the key issue. It is nothing to do with the design. People have every right to get a tattoo, but it may affect the sort of jobs you can get. It’s the same with hair styles. If you like to have a mohawk, don’t be too surprised if you don’t get employed as a receptionist or air hostess. Likewise, if you like facial piercings, then again don’t be surprised if some jobs do not come your way.
Now the difference is you can change your hair style, and remove piercings. But tattoos are not easily removable. True. But that is not the fault of the employer. That is a decision the person with the tattoo made.
Around 20 years ago I probably found tattoos off-putting, but now actually like really cool body art. One friend has probably quarter of her body covered with amazingly lovely art. Definitely not something I’d ever ever do though.
Maori and Pasifika patterns are more attractive than most of the insignia commonly carved into skin and Maori motifs are now often imitated in other parts of the world, not always to the pleasure of their cultural proprietors. It may be that faux ta moko already help promote New Zealand in other places. If so it could be greatly to the advantage of Air New Zealand to have genuine examples of the art on some of its front-line staff.
But the company has not seen it that way, or not until this week. Its reassessment, when it comes, ought to be doubly respected because Air New Zealand not only has the incentive to make the right decision, it is not a conservative company. It is more adventurous than most in its presentation of itself, notably with pre-flight safety films that are not afraid to challenge passengers’ expectations and sense of humour, not to mention their patience
It is an issue for them. I reject that it is a race issue. It is not about the design. As for Miss Nathan, I see Jetstar has offered her a job, so she can still fufill her dreams of being an air hostess.