Delta Air Lines pledges to offer non-binary booking option after discrimination row

By Lucy Thackray
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Delta Air Lines has said it will offer a non-binary gender option on bookings and boarding passes after it was accused of discrimination by one passenger.

Dawn Henry from Arizona complained on Thursday that she could not buy a ticket for her 21-year-old without listing them as either male or female, and accused the carrier of discriminating against nonbinary people.

She claims the airline is out of date given that several US states allow people, including her child, to give the neutral gender “X” on their official ID.

“Delta is discriminating against nonbinary individuals and not allowing them to fly despite legal ID issued by states that allow X on birth certificates and state-issued IDs,” tweeted Henry.

“This thread is the ongoing saga of me trying to purchase a ticket for my non-binary adult child.”

The issue, says Henry, is that the US’s Transportation Security Administration (TSA), which controls airport security, demands that your booking match the gender assigned on your official ID.

In her child’s case, that is “X” - but the airline only recognises two options: male and female.

Henry says the TSA itself recognises the gender “X”, but airlines haven’t yet caught up, leaving nonbinary flyers in violation of TSA rules.

“The problem isn’t with TSA. The problem is airlines, like Delta and Alaska Air,” wrote Henry on Twitter.

Henry called Delta to resolve the issue, but after speaking to multiple staff members, was told that the airline only offers the options of male or female, and could not make an exception and put the gender “X” on her booking.

“A supervisor in Atlanta came on the line and told me that their system only uses male/female and I can only use one of those,” said Henry.

She says that not offering a nonbinary option amounts to a no-fly ban on gender neutral people.

“When a policy makes it impossible to buy a ticket that will comport with TSA guidelines, the result is the same. And that’s discrimination,” tweeted Henry.

American Airlines and United both offer a nonbinary option on their bookings, but several airlines do not.

In 2018, a Delta Airlines spokesperson told the queer online publication Into: “We are exploring options to be even more inclusive of non-binary customers with a non-binary gender option during the booking process”.

However, their gender options for online bookings and boarding passes remain male or female.

A Delta spokesperson told NBC this week that the nonbinary option for passengers would arrive sometime this year.

“Delta Air Lines is a proud, long-time supporter of the LGBTQ+ community and we understand that being seen and acknowledged is part of having an equitable travel experience,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

“While we quickly shifted focus due to Covid in early 2020 to helping customers navigate the rapidly changing environment and government regulations, we are back on track to be able to offer a non-binary gender option in our booking systems in 2022.”

“I am committed to fixing this, not just for my child, but for everyone who holds legal ID with an ‘X’ gender marker,” Henry told NBC News.

“My hope is that pressure on the airlines (not just Delta, but the others that have not updated their systems) will get this done.”

In October, the United States granted its first ever gender “X” passport, reportedly to an intersex US Navy veteran who filed a federal lawsuit in 2015 after their application was denied.

A Delta spokesperson told The Independent: “Delta Air Lines is a proud, long-time supporter of the LGBTQ+ community and we understand that being seen and acknowledged is part of having an equitable travel experience.

“While we quickly shifted focus due to COVID in early 2020 to helping customers navigate the rapidly changing environment and government regulations, we are back on track to be able to offer a non-binary gender option in our booking systems in 2022.”


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