If you’re an aspiring pilot who is thinking of getting a tattoo or currently have a tattoo, we’re sure the question of can pilots have tattoos has crossed your mind.

In short, yes, pilots can have tattoos, though having visible tattoos can pose a problem. If you don’t yet have any body ink and are thinking of getting a tattoo, you should probably think again.

Let’s get into the specifics.

What Can You Do If You Have a Tattoo and Want to Become a Pilot?

In short, if you have a visible tattoo and want to become an airline pilot, prepare for a career of wearing long sleeves. For many aspiring pilots, this might sound like a mere annoyance but not actually that much of an issue. However, this isn’t strictly the case, particularly during your job search and the interview process.

While interviewed, you might be asked whether you have any tattoos or not. While you can lie if your tattoo is in an area that is unlikely to be exposed, you may come to regret it if one day an airline finds out you were lying.

If your tattoo is visible, but can still be covered up – i.e. you have a tattoo on your arm – you should definitely be honest. Just know that while practically all airlines will at the very least require you to cover up a tattoo, it might make it more challenging to get hired. When choosing between candidates, an airline is likely to prefer the pilot who doesn’t have to go out of their way to cover any tattoos.

So while there are many airline pilots who have tattoos, this doesn’t mean that having a tattoo won’t adversely affect you and make it more challenging to get hired. If you’re looking to land your first airline pilot role, you might even want to consider getting it removed, otherwise, it’s possible that your job search will be harder and take longer.

Why Do Airlines Have Strict Tattoo Policies?

The aviation industry – and in particular airlines – has always emphasized professionalism. This is for good reason considering just how much responsibility pilots are given. Every single day, millions of passengers put their full trust in pilots every time they step onto a plane.

Whatever your personal opinion on tattoos might be, and whether logical or not, passengers who see a pilot with tattoos may endanger that image airlines have worked so hard to create and maintain.

Furthermore, there are many countries that have a very negative attitude towards tattoos that aren’t just limited to a small percentage of the population. Take Japan, for example, where tattoos have long been associated with organized crime gangs. Japan isn’t just an exception either.

So if you want to become an international airline pilot instead of just flying for the regionals, this can prove to be another stumbling block.

What About Working in a Non-Airline Pilot Role?

While the dream of many aspiring pilots is to work for a major airline, there are many other commercial pilot job roles available. Generally, these roles pay less but don’t have as strict requirements when it comes to tattoos, as you won’t be interacting with nearly as many passengers.

Of course, specific policies can vary on a company-to-company basis.

Future Outlook

Considering that 36% of US citizens aged 18-29 have at least one tattoo – and that number is expected to rise – you would think that something has to give in the coming years. Additionally, with a pilot shortage in the cards, airlines may have no choice but to relax tattoo policies.

Still, as it stands, if you are thinking of working as an airline pilot it’s best to avoid getting a tattoo, especially one that will need to be covered up. You will be limiting your job opportunities and likely be at a disadvantage compared to non-tattooed pilots who walk into that interview room.

If you already have a tattoo, you can still work as an airline pilot, though just be aware that it’s possible it will take you longer to be hired.