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Airlines explain why you will rarely see a commercial airline pilot with long beard

Though no particular federal policy restricts pilots from having a long beard, a safety concern calls for it.

Airlines explain why you will rarely see a commercial airline pilot with long beard
Representative Cover Image Source: Pexels | Rafael Cosquiere

In any profession, workers are expected to have a well-groomed appearance to a certain extent. The same goes for commercial airline pilots and we often find them in well-fitted, clean and ironed formal wear donned with a cap. However, there's an additional aesthetic choice that commercial pilots are bound to make as part of their job. Turns out, they are not supposed to grow a beard. Though it's not a regulation that is enforced by the government, the Federal Aviation Administration implied that most airlines require pilots to have a nominal or no beard at all. 

Representative Image Source: Pexels | Cottonbro studios
Representative Image Source: Pexels | Cottonbro studios

The key reason for commercial airlines to restrict pilots from growing a beard is safety. "We do not have any regulation—like a clean shaving regulation—but a lot of airlines have policies requiring pilots to have no beards or minimal beards to ensure that oxygen masks fit snugly if they're needed. We require oxygen masks to be functional and airlines may take it further and require that pilots be clean-shaven or have minimal beards to ensure that," a spokesperson for FAA told Thrillist. The FAA hasn't imposed such protocols on beard grooming for commercial pilots. However, the federal agency's advisory circular from 1987 presented a study titled, "The Influence of Beards on Oxygen Mask Efficiency."

Representative Image Source: Alejandro Quinonez
Representative Image Source: Alejandro Quinonez

This document emphasized that "the oxygen mask efficiency is reduced by the presence of facial hair." As per the inference, "Demand masks, such as those used in protective breathing equipment, many times cannot be donned rapidly nor seal effectively when used by bearded individuals." So, based on this study, most commercial airlines have chosen to eliminate the risks of having too much facial hair as a pilot. For instance, Delta Airlines has a strict policy on beards. Delta pilots need to don a clean-shaven look, can have a mustache that doesn't extend beyond the corners of the mouth and sideburns that don't extend beyond the middle ear. This policy ensures that the oxygen masks seal perfectly on their faces during emergencies.


The same goes for the pilots of the American Airlines. "We do not allow pilots with facial hair to be on active duty. It's actually safety-driven. Safety is one of the biggest, most important things in our industry," a spokesperson from American Airlines told the media channel. Some other airlines allow their pilots to keep their beards, but the risks of oxygen mask inefficiency are always under consideration. So, this safety concern is probably why we may not see many pilots with dense beards 

@_hennylim_ The Secret behind the Black Triangle Sticker inside an Airplane! Check this video out to know! Follow my Official facebook page: “Henny Joyce Lim” #fyp #cabincrewlife #blacktriangle #cebupacific #groundstop ♬ Aesthetic - Tollan Kim


Speaking of the mystery behind airline policies, have you ever noticed the black triangles in airplane cabins? In 2022, Joyce Lim (@_hennylim_), a flight attendant for the Philippines-based airline, Cebu Pacific, explained the secret behind these black triangles in a TikTok video. The first reason was, "Passengers sitting next to the triangles get the best view of the wings." Secondly, "If flight crew need to check the wings these triangles let them know the best vantage points for the slats and flaps outside." Finally, "If you are flying an airline that allows you to choose your own seat, look for one of the triangles in the cabin. Anybody who loves taking window shots or videos will get the best view of the wings from these seats." People were astonished by this revelation which would surely help in one's future flight bookings.

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