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Why can pilots have no beard?

Can Airline Pilots Have Beards?

Have you ever wondered why most pilots are clean shaven? Maybe you’re considering a career as a pilot but also love facial hair. Well, this is a very common question.

Airline pilots are generally not allowed to have beards or any facial hair below the lip as a safety precaution. Some airlines allow pilots to have a beard up to a certain length, while some non-US airlines don’t have a rule against it at all.

Why Do Airlines Not Allow Beards?

In a word: Safety.

Airline pilots have to wear supplemental oxygen masks at certain points during a flight. This includes anytime the pressure is above 12,500 feet or if one of the pilots is flying the plane alone (if the other pilot is in the restroom, for example).

What does this have to do with beards?

Well, the argument is that if a pilot has a beard while using an oxygen mask, there is a risk that their facial hair will not allow for a tight fit of the mask and thus the pilot won’t get the oxygen they need.

There is debate in the aviation industry as to how true this is, but most airlines are very conservative when it comes to risking the safety of passengers and crew.

If an emergency were to arise, pilots have to be able to put their oxygen masks on and then do everything they can to maintain the safety of passengers. They can’t do any of that without adequate oxygen.

What Does the Science Say

Recently, Simon Fraser University in Canada did a study to test the effects of having a beard while trying to use an oxygen mask.

They set up three groups of test subjects. One of the group had no facial hair, one had just light facial hair, and the last one had longer beard-like facial hair.

They tested what the oxygen levels were like if the subject was using a oxygen mask with varying amounts of facial hair. They also tested if an irritant (meant to simulate smoke) would get in through the gap between the mask and the facial hair.

The study concluded that there was NO difference between the groups and having facial hair made no difference.

While an interesting study, more research will need to be done before airlines (and the FAA) would consider changing these rules since safety is their primary concern. (Read more about that study here)

Which Airlines Allow Beards

There are several non-US based airlines that do allow pilots to have beards. One of them is Air Canada. Others typically include airlines based outside of the US since they are governed by a different set of rules than airlines in the United States.

Which Airlines Do NOT Allow Beards

US Based airlines generally do not allow pilots to have beards. Although there are some exceptions based on how long the hair is, you can expect that it isn’t allowed. This is especially true with all of the larger national airlines like Southwest and United.

Future Trends

Times are changing and there are more airlines relaxing their rules on beards for pilots. Air Canada, for example recently changed their policy for pilots after the results of the study mentioned earlier in this article.

Although no US based airlines has made this move yet, I would expect over time more research will be done on the topic. If it turns out to be as safe as the study done in Canada, I would expect we see more policies to start to change.

Can Pilots Have a Mustache?

Yes, Pilot can have a mustache. Rules against facial hair for pilots do not apply to anything above the lip since it would not interfere with an oxygen mask so having a mustache is allowed.


While pilots are generally not allowed to have beards due to safety concerns, there are some airlines that do allow it. The good news for potentially bearded pilots is that more airlines are starting to relax their rules and there is even research showing that having a beard is perfectly safe for a pilot.

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Why can pilots have no beard?

Thu May 26, 2016 1:30 am

I have notice something, I do not remember ever seeing a pilot with a beard. When I was in the U. S. Navy, I remember that, they did not want us to have a beard, in case we had to don a oxygen mask, in a chemical attack, so I am thinking that airlines prefer pilot’s, not to wear beards, in case they have to don oxygen masks, during a depressurization .
So, am I right, or are there pilots that wear beards?

WesternDC6B Posts: 1791 Joined: Thu Mar 14, 2013 3:05 pm

RE: Pilots And Beards?

Thu May 26, 2016 1:39 am

In 1969 I flew on Caledonian from London to Los Angeles via Iceland. Our pilot was a very distinguished looking gentleman with a full red beard.

Viscount724 Posts: 19316 Joined: Thu Oct 12, 2006 7:32 pm

RE: Pilots And Beards?

Thu May 26, 2016 1:47 am

I think that rule varies from country to country or airline to airline. I’ve been on flights where pilots had beards, including a KLM flight about 3 weeks ago. I remember him as he was saying goodbye to passengers on arrival.

SaabFA71 Posts: 130 Joined: Sat Apr 16, 2005 9:17 am

RE: Pilots And Beards?

Thu May 26, 2016 2:10 am

I haven’t seen pilots with full beards, but I did see some wearing neatly trimmed goatees from time to time. The airline I used to work for seemed to allow that as a few have worn goatees. I also saw a JetBlue pilot wearing a goatee already.

Mainliner Posts: 368 Joined: Thu Aug 04, 2005 6:34 am

RE: Pilots And Beards?

Thu May 26, 2016 2:17 am

My company, along with most in the US, prohibit pilots from wearing beards because of the need for the quick-donning oxygen mask to seal around the face. Many of our oxygen masks even have a label on them warning that they may not seal over beards. I believe (but am not entirely sure) that JetBlue uses a different sort of mask, and I have seen their pilots in uniform with beards, although short and neatly cropped ones.

Max Q Posts: 9628 Joined: Wed May 09, 2001 12:40 pm

RE: Pilots And Beards?

Thu May 26, 2016 3:39 am

Generally not permitted at US Airlines but plenty of bearded Pilots around the rest of the world !

longhauler Posts: 6488 Joined: Sat Mar 06, 2004 12:00 am

RE: Pilots And Beards?

Thu May 26, 2016 3:48 am

New oxygen masks are very capable of maintaining a seal with regard to facial hair, so it is no longer uncommon to see airline pilots wearing beards.

Rules regarding facial hair are usually covered in the respective airline’s Flight Operations Manual, and are bound no more in scientific fact than men wearing earings or women wearing excessive make-up. (Also not allowed in our FOM).

It has been explained to me, that it is about image. Apparently men sporting facial hair are less trustworthy then those without . . When i try to explain that some pretty respectible airlines allow their pilots to wear beards, it falls on deaf ears.

And when I hear, «We didn’t do it in the Viscount days, why would we do it now?», I want to bang my head against a wall!

rotating14 Posts: 1392 Joined: Sat Jan 21, 2012 11:54 pm

RE: Pilots And Beards?

Thu May 26, 2016 3:51 am

Quoting Mainliner (Reply 4):

The wax on the hair prevents a proper seal.

longhauler Posts: 6488 Joined: Sat Mar 06, 2004 12:00 am

RE: Pilots And Beards?

Thu May 26, 2016 4:01 am

Quoting rotating14 (Reply 7):
The wax on the hair prevents a proper seal.

You actually combined two urban legends.

One is that the wax on one’s beard will ignite when exposed to 100% oxygen. (not true, then moustaches too would be banned, and they are not).

The other is that the facial hair itself will not allow a proper seal to be made.

This is more likely, but goes back to the «old style» quick donning oxygen mask, like those I saw when flying the B737-200. While firm, it never really gave a good seal even without facial hair. But . the only time a seal is an issue is if smoke is a concern, and those masks were able to adjust to a positive pressure, always blowing out . so a seal was not needed nor wanted.

The newer masks, starting around 1980 or so, have an inflatible strap that opens when donning, then grips hard on your face when uninflated and forms a proper seal on your face no matter what is on your face . facial hair, moles, weak chin, you name it. But those masks also have eye goggles incorporated, so a hard seal is necessary. (The older ones didn’t).

jfklganyc Posts: 6720 Joined: Mon Jan 05, 2004 2:31 pm

RE: Pilots And Beards?

Thu May 26, 2016 4:04 am

Quoting rotating14 (Reply 7):

The wax on the hair prevents a proper seal.

Not true.

It is an airline visual appearance thing.

Up until 2 years ago, a major allowed it. Since banned.

longhauler Posts: 6488 Joined: Sat Mar 06, 2004 12:00 am

RE: Pilots And Beards?

Thu May 26, 2016 4:08 am

I am curious though . what airlines do or do not allow beards?

I will start the ball rolling, Air Canada does not.

Mir Posts: 19491 Joined: Mon Jan 05, 2004 3:55 am

RE: Pilots And Beards?

Thu May 26, 2016 4:18 am

Quoting longhauler (Reply 6):
women wearing excessive make-up.

This one actually makes some sense, as certain cosmetics can pose an ignition danger in the oxygen-rich environment inside the mask.

rugger Posts: 394 Joined: Mon Dec 01, 2014 9:03 pm

RE: Pilots And Beards?

Thu May 26, 2016 6:09 am

I always heard it was the image thing. You are representing the company and the company wants their people to look clean and sharp at all times. They also want sideburns closely trimmed too.

SXDFC Posts: 2402 Joined: Sun Dec 09, 2007 6:07 pm

RE: Pilots And Beards?

Thu May 26, 2016 6:20 am

It is an airline visual appearance thing.

f4f3a Posts: 724 Joined: Thu Jul 29, 2004 4:07 am

RE: Pilots And Beards?

Thu May 26, 2016 6:39 am

Pilots do and can wear beards it’s just airline rules.
In the Royal Navy there have been plenty of pilots who
Have worn beards and even flown fighter jets with no problem .
Google sharky ward . In the raf moustaches allowed but not beards.
In airlines it has always been the case that pilots can have a well trimmed
Beard. In fact certainly I think it’s probably against your human rights to ban it.

azjubilee Posts: 3746 Joined: Sat Apr 29, 2000 5:26 am

RE: Pilots And Beards?

Thu May 26, 2016 7:00 am

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