United Airlines Reveals Updated Employee Appearance Standards

United Airlines has revealed the full extent of its updated employee appearance standards. Targeting customer-facing employees, the new appearance standards will allow for more inclusive requirements while maintaining the overall professional look of employees working for the carrier. The updated standards will go into effect from September 1st.

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United Airlines has released the full details of its updated employee appearance standards. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

United Airlines updates employee appearance standards

In June, United Airlines detailed that it would be updating its employee appearance standards. The airline has finally put the finishing touches on the policies and has released the updated standards’ details. The changes target four specific areas.

The first is tattoos. Customer-facing uniformed employees will be allowed to have visible tattoos. There are limits to this policy, however. For example, all tattoos must be smaller than the size of their work badge and cannot contain obscene or offensive imagery or wording (for example, no swear words). There are also limits to the number of tattoos visible, such as a maximum of one per arm. More limits apply to United’s customer-facing employees on tattoos. The airline will not permit tattoos on an employee’s face, neck, or hands.

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Small tattoos will be allowed so long as they are not on a person’s face, neck, or hands. Photo: United Airlines

The next standard is hair length. All customer-facing uniformed employees will be allowed to wear their hair down regardless of their gender. However, the hair must be at shoulder length or shorter and must still be kept in a neat and tidy fashion.

United Airlines Reveals Updated Employee Appearance Standards
The updated hair length guidelines will allow employees to have their hair down so long as it is at shoulder length or shorter. Photo: United Airlines

The third is nails. Previously, male-identifying employees were not permitted to wear colored nail polish. This will change, though employees will still need to wear nail polish that meets professional appearance standards.

Finally, the airline is altering its makeup policy. Previously, male-identifying employees were not permitted to wear makeup. Now, all employees will be allowed to put on makeup. However, all employees must wear natural-looking makeup that meets professional standards.

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The goal is to give male-identifying and female-identifying employees more uniform standards. Photo: United Airlines

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Freedom for employees while maintaining a professional appearance

United Airlines released the following statement on the updated standards:

“At United, we believe we are all connected by the similarities we recognize and the differences we celebrate in each other. We’ve updated our appearance standards to empower our employees to represent themselves in the way they feel most confident. Our modernized appearance guidelines promote a supportive, encouraging, and positive environment for our employees and customers alike.

The updated policies will allow more employees to express themselves while maintaining professional work uniforms. Male-identifying and female-identifying employees will have more uniform standards with reasonable limits. In addition, employees will have a choice over whether to do their makeup, how to do their hair, and others while wearing the United uniform and promoting the brand.

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Employees will still need to arrive to work in uniform and maintain a professional appearance. Photo: United Airlines

For example, United is not allowing face or neck tattoos and will only allow natural-looking makeup. However, an employee who may have their wedding anniversary or a child’s birthday tattooed on their wrist will be allowed to display those tattoos so long as the tattoo is smaller than the employee’s work badge.

Are appearance standards too strict in the industry?

Many passengers who have experience with airlines based abroad may recognize some pretty strict appearance standards. For example, airlines like Qatar Airways, Emirates, and Singapore Airlines come to mind. Other airlines from the past, ranging from Pan Am to TWA, were also well-known for having strict employee appearance standards.

Things have started to change in the airline industry. Small, unobtrusive, and decent tattoos are being worn by more and more people on their wrists or ankles. Especially among younger people, including those whom United will one day need to employ, tattoos are a form of self-expression and can have deeper, intimate meanings for a person.

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United Airlines is looking to give its employees more freedom to express themselves within reason. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Most of the updated appearance standards will go unnoticed by passengers. Some male-identifying employees may start to wear makeup to cover any blemishes or parts of their face that may have brought discomfort in the past, leading to a more confident appearance when in the sky or on the ground.

Employees of an airline are still people who do not just shed their lives when they walk in the door to work. These updated appearance standards acknowledge that reality and promote United as a more inclusive brand willing to adapt and acknowledge its employees. United will be the airline that puts this subheading to the test: are appearance standards too strict in the industry?