May 7, 2021

Maori News & Indigenous Views

Air New Zealand rejects prospective flight attendant’s Ta Moko as “frightening, intimidating”

2 min read


(NZHerald) Claire Nathan says she had her dreams of being an air hostess dashed after Air New Zealand turned her away because of her ta moko.

Ms Nathan applied for her dream job in January, but last month, the national flag carrier terminated an interview when she declared the traditional Maori motif on her lower arm.

Last night, she told Maori TV show Native Affairs how the interview initially went well, until it came to filling out a form that asked if she had any visible tattoos.

“I thought, ‘This is interesting. I wonder why they are asking me that. Maybe it’s because they want to know if I have a ta moko.’

“I thought that they would be quite proud to have someone with a ta moko working and representing New Zealand. [But it’s] not the case. [It] was the total opposite.”

Ms Nathan said she was told tattoos that could not be covered by the uniform were unacceptable.

“I said straight away, ‘This is a ta moko.’ She [the interviewer] said, ‘You can’t even cover that up’ and that ‘we will have to stop this interview.’

“I was totally shocked and just couldn’t believe what I was hearing.”

She said it was a double standard from an airline whose logo is a koru.

Heavily tattooed singer Gin Wigmore has appeared in Air NZ ads, as have numerous inked All Blacks.

Ms Nathan said she never thought her ta moko – depicting her heritage and her two children – would limit her career choices.

Air New Zealand said last night that tattoos were seen as “frightening or intimidating” in many cultures.

“Naturally we want all of our customers to feel comfortable and happy … and this has been a key driver of our grooming standard which, like many other international airlines, prevents customer-facing staff from having visible tattoos.”

Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples called the airline’s policy a “contradiction”.

“It’s ironic when you think the airline has carried the koru in their logo for these many years,” he said. “It’s a bit of a contradiction that they have taken this stance on moko.

“Ta moko is part of … our New Zealand culture, and our national airline who use the koru motif in their brand should respect our art form.”

The Human Rights Commission says “a person of Maori descent may not be denied employment, entry to premises, or declined service because they wear moko visibly”.

25 thoughts on “Air New Zealand rejects prospective flight attendant’s Ta Moko as “frightening, intimidating”

  1. Think before you ink? There’s a good new slogan. I have tattoos and everyone I got I thought about perspective jobs in the future and wether these tattoos will affect those situations. C’mon really? What employer with such a smart dress code is really going to employ workers with visual arm tattoos? This could happen with a lot of high end company’s. if you want to get tattoos and still work in customer service then I suggest McDonalds.

  2. Wow glad I saw this on fb. The interviewer was rude an what a discrimination. I am a shame of Air NZ. Will no longer travel with them

  3. Foolish and ignorant. Air NZ wake up. So bent on flogging yourselves off as representing the portal to a Kiwi cultural experience and yet you baulk at ta moko because its frightening?
    Get out from under your prissy arsed rock, get educated and get with it.

  4. Its strange that when Air New Zealand advertises itself using Maori motifs the for someone to wear a taa moko in the services department of Air New Zealand is not right? I think having Taa Moko on a Flight Attendant because she genuinely wants to wear her identity should be okay.

    If she was a customer flying Air New Zealand its okay for Air New Zealand to take her money? But to work as a services Stewart then no! Air New Zealand also has used the Hobbit Movie to advertise themselves. So then it was okay for an Elf or Hobbit to serve customers but not a Maori wearing a Maori taa moko that shows an important aspect of Atearoa New Zealand.

    I’m disgusted with Air New Zealand. In her initial interview they suggested that she can apply for another job working in baggage or in other labour jobs of Air New Zealand. That is not right!! Claire has every right to apply for the job that she feels is suited for her. But because I feel she is Maori with a tattoo and not a taa moko (there is a difference) she would be better in a labour job. Air New Zealand’s response was racist. They said it would offend their international customers. So its okay to advertise Air New Zealand with traditional Maori images and Maori culture but to have a Maori wear a taa moko with pride they saw as offensive! And then to make it worst the race relations commissioner did not accept an interview to respond to this, and only the Human Rights Commission offered to help Claire solve this issue. Shame of Air New Zealand and it also goes to show the Race Relations Commissioner Susan is incompetent in her job! Why is it then that the All Blacks who have taa moko and tattoos are portrayed by Air New Zealand as heroes to the Rugby Sport and yet this woman could not get a job because of her Taa Moko on her arm. What if it was on her face? I would be proud to employ someone who was proud to represent the full cultural image and life of who she is wherever the taa moko is. Shame on Air New Zealand. This goes to show that Maori and all what it means to be Maori continues to live as second class citizens, and like the woman who interview Claire, Maori are pushed to the baggage area. kia kaha Claire! I want to suggest that you don’t apply for any job with Air New Zealand. What you should do is apply with another Airline that will accept you and all that the Taa moko represents and create a Brand around who you are, being Maori, your whanau, iwi, hapu, and your taa moko. Represent yourself in another service type corporate company that will accept you for who you are and build a brand around that. Not only your Maoritanga and the mana will be respected but you will also truly represent Maori and all of who we are to the world. And Air New Zealand will be known for the racist policies they have. You then show that you don’t need their racist institute or policies and rather you can lead the way to what it means to be Maori in the global community and in a corporate setting. I think Native Affairs could speak to Naida Clavish about this because in 1984 she was fired from her job as a Tolls Operator for saying ‘Kia ora’ on the exchange when answering calls. Which caused wide spread debate. These cases are not too dissimilar. Many corporate companies now are using Maori words for marketing and branding services but they are also coming under criticism to how genuine are they using these terms. When the 2011 Earthquake happened in Christchurch another term widely used was ‘Kia kaha New Zealand’ used all around the world. But in actual fact many of the people using this term only meant it for the time of the Earthquake but did not consider the cultural aspect of the word. Its as if Maori, Maori tikanga, and Maori Language is used when it suits people and then never spoken of again until a corporate or institute finds the need to exploit it again. Another racist response to the Maori language is the debates surrounding the Maori language week. During the Matatini Kapa Haka Festival many of the mainstream media covered very little of this event as most of it was seen on the Maori channel. Many people felt that they were living in another country because one of Maoridom best known festivals were held but it was never portrayed to the rest of the New Zealand Media.

  5. you wouldn’t go to indonesia and ask a muslim to remove their burka just coz you dont like it, so why would you expect a maori not to show their ta moko? It is not a tattoo, there is a difference. Hulloo…this Aotearoa if anything airlines should be educating tourist about the significance of such things not promoting them as something to be ashamed of or “scared” of.

  6. If air New Zealand allowed facial tamokos then where would this end next would come full facial tattoos I’m no prude but please guys and girls think before you deface yourselves

  7. Air New Zealand has the right to refuse any future employees due to tattoos that may upset or frighten passengers same as any employer , I as an employer and a kiwi would not employ a women with a tamoko on her face , I am proud of my heritage but you have to question some of the young ones getting their tamokos on their faces or necks guys and girls you need to really think before you put them on your head or necks as future employers may refuse you a job . I can guarantee when this young lady choose her Tamoko she wouldn’t of even thought about future employment so the blame should be placed on the guy doing the tattoo.

    1. I disagree with you because a tattooist will do and advise on the body art, the price and whats best for that particular person. No discussion of ’employment’ or ‘future prospects’ will be given a thought. Tamoko on the other hand carries our whakapapa, Maori have broken through the worst wars and this is purely political. Tamoko has entered our upper class industry and it will take commitment and hard yards to break yet another barrier. Personally I have recently had my tamoko of 20 years updated to something my son (tattooist) wanted to give me. It is almost the size of my lower arm in opposed to it being a third of that size previously. I love it. Professionally I am equivalent of Registered Nurse 5 in NZ and I wear it proudly. It did not affect my employment status at all and I am a health professional. Tamoko is not scarey, tamoko has a variety of meanings. There need to be more of us in this industry to spread the message ‘that its not scarey’. I was one of a select few that had tattoos 30 years ago in oz and breaking into nursing was frowned upon, but I stood the test of time having all sorts of criticisms until others started sporting the same for their own reasons. We have more work to do and it will happen. Tamoko for Polynesians is our language of who we are. Lots of talent out there. I can see votes happening for the next politician supporting this.

  8. well since 1970s Ihave spent thousands of dollars with AIR NZ on airfares ,I see thru the years they have become very peculiar in dawning all these new ideas etc etc now they have stepped out too far from their purpose.well now its ta moko.
    From today my company will no longer be using air new zealand any more we will be using other airlines.

  9. Hi there I would fully go for you Clair. Tell me Air New Zealand I enjoy flying with you’s even though its only around New Zealand I find Air New Zealand is reali comfy as but when you go discriminate one of our people in such a way corz dea ta moko can not be covered wot da heck is up with that. U just took a part of her mana away from her I hope she fights u’s all da way & pity sure the people of NZ will back her up.
    Tautoko Clair

  10. If as AIR NZ states is true, that tattoos ( in this case, Ta Moko) are seen as “frightening and intimidating to some cultures”, then maybe they could explain why these haven’t frightened or intimidated the different cultured passengers who fly with those who have tattoos( Ta Moko) The planes are still full with many of “those cultures” wearing( with pride I might add) our Ta Moko!

    1. tautoko your korero,maybe air Zealand needs to remove that koru on that plane cause that depicts all NZ maori ,me included who carries da moko on the chin and must say proud as can be,never mind hidding behind our koru plastered on their plane and then rejecting one of our tangatawhenua HYPERCRITES

  11. Kia kaha Claire. This is an issue that needed to be brought to our attention. Ta moko are not tattoos – tattoos are adornments. Moko show the whakapapa and identity of the wearer. Either Air NZ respects the difference or they cease to use our symbols to promote their brand. Not a good look if you ask me!

    1. Kia ora Ngahiwi, its education e kare, removing the koru is even more devastating. That’s not the answer. We all love to see it stay. Pity we couldn’t see ‘this scarey tamoko’. Rather than become negative az we need to bring up reasons why tamoko and koru are here to stay. We are dealing with Pakeha thinking and tourism and revenue, solutions is what we need to spend our energies on, so come on y’all lets nut this one out together

  12. I would hire you Claire because you are proud of who you are, depicted in your ta moko and because you are honest. Here’s to your hopes and ambitions and Air New Zealand making changes to their policies.

  13. Discrimination like this knows no bounds. I personally do not like tattoos but will never look down or discriminate against a person who wears one, its their choice at the end of the day. High time society starts looking at the person and not their personal effects.

  14. Shame on you Air New Zealand. It’s often a talking point where people will ask the origins of the ta moko, it’s meaning and significance for the wearer. My son has often had people from other countries approach him to admre the ta moko on his left arm…time to do the right thing, I say!

    1. I fully agree with you. All tattoos have a meaning so the rule should stand for everyone regardless of race

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