The popularity of tattoos has exploded in recent years. Once upon a time tattoos were only something that a very small percentage of the population would ever got. These days people from all walks of life commonly have tattoos.
This not only includes people getting tattoos in places that are well hidden from the public, but people also getting inked on their hands, feet, forearms, necks, and other places that are harder to hide.
Considering that about 1 in 3 Americans have a tattoo it’s not surprising that a common question for people considering a career as a pilot is:
Are airline pilots allowed to have tattoos?
Airlines generally do not allow pilots to have any tattoos that are visible while in uniform.
While the answer is generally No, let’s take a look at some of the specific details.
Why Do Airlines Not Allow Tattoos?
Being a pilot is a highly skilled job with a lot of responsibility. Pilots are responsible for getting the passengers and crew safely to their destination. While having a tattoo does not in any way affect a pilot’s ability to safely perform their job, it’s seen as unprofessional by many people to have visible tattoos.
Since airlines expect their pilots to be seen as professional as trustworthy by the public, they don’t want to do anything that could jeopardize that image. There are still many passengers that are not fond of tattoos and see them as unprofessional, so the airlines take a cautious approach.
If You Plan to be a Pilot
If you have hopes of being an airline pilot someday and don’t already have a tattoo, you should be very cautious about getting one. Although tattoos are exploding in popularity and it’s reasonable to think that someday airlines won’t have a policy against it, you should still be careful.
Even the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) warns about the risk to your future employment as a pilot if you choose to get a tattoo. You can extensively about their thoughts on the topic here.
I already Have a Tattoo. Now what?
There are a couple of variables here. If you already have a tattoo and dream of being hired as an airline pilot, consider the following options.
Is the tattoo visible?
If you have a tattoo that is not visible while wearing a standard pilot uniform (pants, shirt, etc) then you might be in luck. Your best bet would be to not mention anything about having the tattoo in the first place. If it can be covered up with no risk, then nobody should see it anyway.
This should work great for tattoos on your back, chest, and other areas that should never be exposed while working as a pilot.
Would you remove it?
If you do have a tattoo that will prevent you from ever being a pilot, another option is to look into having the tattoo removed. The technology to do that has come a long way. It is now cheaper and less painful to have this procedure done that it was in years past.
There are many clinics that specialize in this procedure. a quick Google search in your area should provide you with at least a couple options to contact so you can learn more.
Tattoos in “Grey” Areas
Many people get tattoos in areas that might be considered “grey” areas. This includes spots where the tattoo is covered by some clothing and not others. A tattoo on your arm or ankle, for example.
These can be tough cases depending on the uniform you’ll have to wear and how visible it is. You might find yourself in a situation where you are forced to wear long sleeves even when you would prefer not to. Airlines will not hire you if they know upfront that you will constantly have to go out of your way to cover your tattoo from passengers, so keep that in mind as well.
Since the popularity of tattoos is growing exponentially, it’s not crazy to think that these policies could change in the coming years. Younger generations don’t have the same negative stereotypes about people with tattoos that many previous generations have.
As mentioned above, the number of young people with at least one tattoo is huge and only growing. Consider these numbers:
- 1 in 3 Americans has at least one tattoo
- 40% of people between the ages of 18 and 29 have at least one tattoo
- 70% of people with one tattoo end up getting more than one
These generation will eventually take on all kinds of jobs including ones that require a lot of education and training. It will someday be common to see accountants, surgeons, and lawyers with tattoos. So, why not pilots?
Airlines have a long-standing policy to not allow pilots to have tattoos that are visible while in uniform. If you plan on becoming a pilot and don’t have a tattoo, you should be careful about getting one as it can impact your future employment.