Can Pilots Have Tattoos in 2023? (Comparing Commercial Airlines)

Looking at the last decade or so, the whole world seems to have advanced a lot in terms of tattoo acceptance but there are still quite a few industries that, let’s say it bluntly, discriminate against inked people.

For the most part, aviation seems to be the main culprit when it comes to tattoo bans.

The job of a pilot is a dream for many people (including those who are tattooed or plan to be!). It’s a highly coveted position and the airline industry is very competitive. So, when airline companies say no to tattoos, it’s a big deal.

So the question that arises is, can airline pilots have tattoos?

And the answer is – it depends.

In this article, we will look at all the major airlines from different countries and continents to give you a solid idea of where your best chances of becoming a pilot with a tattoo lie.

Strap in and let’s get started!

Can Pilots Have Tattoos? A General Look at the Airline Pilot Tattoo Policy

So, do airlines allow tattoos for pilots?

Looking at the overall picture, most commercial airlines do not allow their pilots to have any visible tattoos. This means that if you want to pursue a career in aviation, you need to make sure all your ink is hidden away before applying for the job.

The good news is, there are exceptions to this rule and although the list of more tattoo-progressive airlines grows pretty slowly, it definitely gives hope for a more accepting future.

Now let’s learn how the situation looks across different carriers.

Spoiler Alert: some allow pilots to be inked!

Can Commercial Pilots Have Tattoos in Popular Airlines?

There are two reasons why you shouldn’t be too downbeat if you have tattoos and aspire to be an airline pilot.

First of all, some airlines have already significantly relaxed their tattoo policies.

Second of all, it’s always possible to relocate in case your current country’s carrier has a strict no-tattoo policy.

Let’s take a look at some of the popular airlines and check out their stance on pilots with tattoos!

US Airlines

The vast majority of US carriers have a no-visible tattoo policy. That means that your tattoos shouldn’t be on show while wearing your pilot uniform. If they are, you’ll have to cover them up with long-sleeved shirts (although not all airlines will be okay with that).

In general, concealing the ink with skin-matching make-up or band-aids is also a no-go.

The list of US airlines with no visible tattoo policy is as follows:

So, what airlines allow tattoos for pilots?

Currently, there are 3 US-based airlines open to accepting inked pilots.

  • Alaska Airlines – pilots are allowed to have small visible tattoos according to the “badge rule”. This means tattoos in visible places can’t be bigger than the uniform’s badge
  • SkyWest – the airline allows for “small and tasteful” tattoos on pilots without really defining the exact dimension limits. The tattoos are evaluated on a case-by-case basis
  • United Airlines – the airline uses the same badge rule as Alaska Airlines

With the growing pressure from the inked community and the ever-increasing number of tattooed aviation geeks, it’s highly likely that more and more airlines will start to accept pilots with tattoos.

European Airlines

The tattoo policies of European carriers are even more diverse than those of US airlines. For the most part, airlines have strict no-tattoo policies but some accept pilots with visible ink without size limits.

Here’s the list of major European carriers that don’t accept pilots with tattoos:

As things stand, the only EU-based airline that is OK with tattooed pilots is Virgin Atlantic. However, it’s also one of if not the most progressive airlines globally!

After the 2022 policy update, all pilots (and flight attendants) working for the UK carrier can have an unlimited number of visible tattoos. There are also no limits on the sizing. However, all tattoos need to be tasteful and can’t include anything that could be considered inappropriate, discriminatory, or offensive.

Asia & Oceania Airlines

The tattoo policies of Asian and Oceanian airlines are mostly on par with those of their European and US counterparts meaning that most carriers have strict no-visible-tattoo policies.

Here’s the list of airlines that don’t accept pilots with visible tattoos:

Additionally, there’s Qatar Airways which prohibits even tattoos hidden under the uniform.

As things stand, the only airline based on the continent that is accepting tattoos on pilots is Air New Zealand.

Why Are Airlines So Strict Regarding Tattoos?

So, why is a tattoo a problem for a pilot? Why can’t pilots have tattoos even if they’re mostly in the cockpit?

The official stance of most airlines is that they want their pilots to look professional and presentable at all times.

Another reason why some carriers are reticent about allowing pilots with visible tattoos is that they’re worried about offending passengers from certain cultures where body ink is seen as taboo.

For instance, in the Middle East, having a tattoo is considered haram (forbidden) by the majority of Muslims.

What’s more, some airlines are worried that inked pilots will be less employable later on in their careers. After all, there are still many businesses and industries that have strict no-tattoo policies.

So, if you’re thinking about getting a tattoo, it’s worth considering how it might affect your future career prospects, not just as a pilot but in other fields too.

Can Cargo Pilots Have Tattoos?

Your chances of getting hired increase drastically if you’re willing to fly cargo. In fact, most airlines have very lenient tattoo policies for cargo pilots.

The obvious reason for this is that cargo pilots spend the vast majority of their time in the cockpit and almost never have to deal with customers face-to-face.

As a result, there’s much less pressure on airlines to ensure that their cargo pilots conform to certain standards of appearance.

That being said, it’s still worth checking with the airline you’re applying to, just to be on the safe side.

Can Helicopter Pilots Have Tattoos?

The same rules that apply to cargo pilots also apply to helicopter pilots.

The vast majority of helicopter operators have no problem with their pilots having visible tattoos.

This is because, unlike commercial airline pilots, helicopter pilots don’t usually have to deal with customers face-to-face.

Final Word

Despite the strict commercial pilot tattoo policy shared by most major airlines, there are still some carriers that are more lenient. And the number of airlines with tattoo-friendly policies is slowly but surely increasing.

So, if you’re dead set on becoming a pilot and also happen to have tattoos, it’s worth doing some research to see which airlines might be more relaxed about their appearance requirements.

Additionally, if you’re willing to fly cargo or helicopters, your chances of getting hired with visible tattoos increase dramatically.

So, if you’re set on becoming a pilot but also want to get tattooed, it’s definitely worth considering your options.

If you’re a tattooed pilot and would like to share your experiences, we’d love to hear from you in the comments below.