I found myself alone in the wilderness yesterday when I mentioned on air that I supported Air New Zealand's U-turn on its tattoo policy.

Staff can now "proudly display" their non-offensive tattoos at work. Previously, they had to cover them up.

I thought being able to have a visible tattoo while still holding a job with the airline sounded reasonable.


I have no issue with tattoos - one of my sons has several of them, they don't bother me at all, in fact I quite like them. But a large amount of feedback came my way disagreeing with me.

"They're offensive," someone said.
"They're ugly and remind me of criminals," said another.
"Why should your poor decision around a dragon in your teenage years be in my face while I'm flying?" said another.

The majority of people felt if you wanted a serious customer-facing job then you had to maintain certain presentation standards - one of which was not having a neck or face full of ink, which may be offensive to others.

And that's where this could get tricky for Air NZ.
What constitutes a "non-offensive" or "inappropriate" tattoo - and who decides?
And how much can you get away with under the category 'cultural'.

Where are the boundaries? Who sets them? And how do you enforce it?

Air NZ CEO Christopher Luxon said he wanted to "liberate staff", "embrace diversity" and allow people to "express individuality".

That's great for the staff, but what about the customers who're offended by it?

Uniformed jobs don't allow for much individuality by their very nature - and many airlines still maintain a strict no-tattoo policy.


But Air NZ believes there's a growing acceptance of tattoos, with research showing one in five Kiwi adults has at least one.

The airline didn't make the decision lightly either, taking five months to consult with customers and staff both here and overseas - but if the feedback I got yesterday is anything to go by, many people are still unimpressed by tattoos.

So do those people just need to get over themselves?
Is the current climate of offence at any expression of individuality just all a bit precious?

Or do people on planes deserve to have their cookie handed to them by an arm free of inked tigers and butterflies?

What'll be interesting to see from here is whether this has a knock-on effect for other uniformed workplaces in New Zealand - and even for schools.
Will we see a loosening of the rules around presentation for uniformed roles?

Air NZ wants people to be able to bring their "true selves" to work. I hope that's true, I hope this is more than just a PR stunt.

But what I'll be most interested to see is who else, in terms of corporates or schools, jumps on the 'free the tattoo' bandwagon.