Court says ban on pilot's beard legitimate, but why?

By Park Sae-jin Posted : May 27, 2016, 11:36 Updated : May 27, 2016, 15:20

[A Scottish pilot with a moustache - Courtesy of Royal Air Force]

Growing a beard can be a virtue for some macho jobs -- seamen, pirates, and lumberjacks -- but obviously not for pilots.

An Asiana Airline pilot has challenged the company's decision to stop him from growing a beard, but he failed to reverse it after a court said Thursday that the ban is "legitimate".

The Seoul Administrative Court favoured airline companies saying they have the right to control the looks of staff to provide quality service to passengers. "Customer satisfaction and trust are important operational factors of an airline company," the court said. "It is reasonable for them to regulate workers' outfits and looks in a wider scope compared to other companies."

The pilot was kicked out of the cockpit for a month in 2014, but he was allowed to take the control handle again after he promised not to grow a beard. Later he filed a complaint with labor authorities about the company's move.

Pilots, of course, can show a strong image with clean-shaven features, but the court's ruling may have veered from a generally-accepted perception as many airline companies around the globe do not allow pilots to grow facial hair just for safety reasons, not because of their looks.

According to an advisory circular released in 2003, the US  Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) alerts pilots not to grow a beard or a moustache because when using an oxygen mask at a time of emergency, air can easily seep through the border of the mask and incapacitate a pilot.

However, some British and US air force pilots grow moustaches to honor their veterans. 
In 2008, Royal Air Force airman refused to follow orders given by his superior officer in Afghanistan. Unsatisfied with the order, the airman looked up regulations approved by the Queen which set out the permitted size. The airman was able to keep his moustache because his did not break the rules.

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