So, You Want to Sport a Beard?

One of the MOST commonly asked questions on the forum isn’t just “am I too old to become an airline pilot” or “do I need a college degree to become an airline pilot,” but “can I have a beard and still be an airline pilot?” The simplistic answer to having a beard in the airline industry is, no (unless you’re going to fly at Hawaiian Airlines or Allegiant Air). But let’s not focus on Hawaiian and Allegiant as there are nearly a hundred (if not more) airlines in the U.S. network, which all have policies, procedures and standards for grooming. A beard is something that you will have to give up if you want to become an airline pilot.

Yes, doing a quick Google Search on “beards in the airline industry” will bring you millions (in fact, 170,000,000 results in 0.55 seconds) on the topic; however, it is not likely for a company like Legacy, Major, Regional Airlines etc. to allow beards. And before the question of “I’ve read that it breaks the seal of the oxygen mask, is that true” comes up, the myth was broken years ago by a university from Canada, which then allowed Air Canada pilots to sport small amounts of facial hair.

All airlines have policies for dress code and standards across the industry. For example, like many airlines, in my airline’s Flight Operations Manual (FOM) section for Crew Personnel Policies, it states: “Beards and goatees are not permitted. No facial hair growth (of any description) will be permitted below the upper lip.” Ask any of the other mentors or airline pilots (non-Hawaiian) and theirs will read almost the exact same. When it comes to professionalism, pilots are often held to a higher expectation by passengers, a person of confidence, authority, dependability, and maturity to make the right decisions and safely get them from point A to B.

For those inquiring about religious exemptions and/or waivers for medical conditions, your argument may be worth an attempt; however, companies will not give an exemption for one person. Professionalism and high expectations were set decades ago by pilots. There is no discussion of changing policies that has been announced on any forum, government documents or company’s websites showing an interest in entertaining the change.

The last U.S. based airline, Allegiant Air, was the last to change their policy. Does this leave room for more U.S. based airlines to change policy? We don’t and probably will not know when that discussion comes, until it comes. To sum up the topic, if you want to be an airline pilot, you are going to have to sacrifice facial hair.