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Current as of 24/10/14 08:20AM NZST

Tattooed applicant goes right off Air NZ

By Steve Deane

Claire Nathan has said she no longer wishes to work for Air New Zealand as long its policy on visible tattoos remains unchanged. Photo / Te Kaea news
Claire Nathan has said she no longer wishes to work for Air New Zealand as long its policy on visible tattoos remains unchanged. Photo / Te Kaea news

Claire Nathan, the woman who was barred by Air New Zealand from working as an air hostess because of a ta moko on her forearm, says she no longer wants to work for the airline.

In a yet-to-be-screened second interview with Maori TV's Native Affairs programme, Ms Nathan accuses the airline, which sports a koru as its logo, of adopting parts of Maori culture for commercial gain while showing little regard for other aspects.

"I don't feel I want to represent Air New Zealand until they change their policy," Ms Nathan says.

"They need to embrace our whole culture, not just take pieces of it to suit themselves."

Politicians including Prime Minister John Key yesterday questioned the airline's policy of not employing "customer-facing" staff who sported tattoos that could not be covered by uniforms.

An Air New Zealand spokeswoman yesterday said: "As we've already stated, our customer experience team is currently reviewing all standards across the airline including the issue of frontline staff having visible tattoos of any origin or design.

"As far as Ms Nathan is concerned, nothing has changed - customer-facing staff cannot have visible tattoos, regardless of the origin, nature, design or personal significance of the tattoo."

Ms Nathan said she had been in contact with the Human Rights Tribunal, which was interested in hearing her story. She hoped the tribunal would help her to better understand her position.

Air New Zealand referred the Herald to a 2011 Human Rights Tribunal decision that it said showed "it is reasonable for a customer-facing worker to be asked to cover a tattoo when at work".

The tribunal ruled a catering company had not discriminated against a Maori employee it asked to cover a ta moko by wearing a three-quarter-length shirt.

However the decision - reached because no evidence was presented that Maori would see being asked to cover up moko as "disrespectful of their whakapapa, cultural tradition and custom" - should not be taken as a precedent, the tribunal's ruling stated.

"We doubt that the experience of what happened in this case has anything much in the way of precedent value," the decision states.

Ms Nathan was adamant Air New Zealand should amend its policy.

"For our future, our kids, the policy needs to change."

Meanwhile, Air New Zealand's domestic rival Jetstar yesterday said it would welcome an application from Ms Nathan for one of its customer service roles.

Read more: Editorial: Up to Air NZ to judge the real view of tattoos

- NZ Herald

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