Here’s the safety reason why airlines don’t allow pilots to have beards

Why airlines don’t allow pilots to have beards (Getty Images)
Why airlines don’t allow pilots to have beards (Getty Images)

An airline has revealed the one rule that most pilots are required to follow.

Much like how some corporate jobs require facial hair to be either well-kept or cleanly shaven, some airlines do not allow pilots to grow beards at all. According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), there is no written rule that explicitly states beards aren’t allowed. However, there is a safety aspect that explains why many airlines do not allow their pilots to grow facial hair.

“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,” an FAA spokesperson said in an interview withThrillist.

“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.”

The rule comes from a 1987 study by the FAA, titled: “The Influence of Beards on Oxygen Mask Efficiency.”

“Bearded crewmembers should be aware that oxygen mask efficiency is reduced by the presence of facial hair,” read the document. “Demand masks, such as those used in protective breathing equipment, many times cannot be donned rapidly nor seal effectively when used by bearded individuals.”

Still, various airlines may have their own policies when it comes to what type of facial hair allowed. Delta Air Lines, for example, allows sideburns on pilots as long as it don’t grow past the middle of their ear.

Pilots can also grow a mustache, but it must be neat and cannot be longer than the corners of their mouths. Delta doesn’t allow any kind of beard or hair covering the chin or cheek, meaning pilots cannot have beards while performing flight deck duties, flying as a jumpseater, or during any pilot training.

A spokesperson for Delta confirmed to Thrillist that the rule is instituted because of “the need for an oxygen mask to maintain a good seal in the event of an emergency.”

American Airlines revealed to the outlet that they also have a similar policy for safety reasons. “We do not allow pilots with facial hair to be on active duty,” a  spokesperson for the airline told Thrillist. “It’s actually safety driven. Safety is one of the biggest, most important things in our industry.”

Despite the rules that pilots need to follow, some still preach the same rules to their passengers. Back in February, one Delta Air Lines pilot went viral over his rule that everyone should be respectful during a flight to Atlanta, Georgia.

He introduced himself over the loudspeaker as “servant leader” and “captain of the ship”.

“I’m responsible for the safety of my ship, my crew, my passengers, my cargo. But, above all, the rules,” he announced. The pilot instructed passengers to “obey the commands and instructions of my flight attendants” before offering his final rule.

“Lastly, I ask that we all be respectful of one another,” he said.