“M”, “F”, “U” or “X”: Airlines to Provide New Gender Options on Passengers’ Tickets
In a move to be more “inclusive” to the transgender community, some airlines are planning to add more gender options for their ticketed passengers.
Air travelers in the U.S. will soon be able to select gender options other than “male” or “female” when booking their flights.
The shift toward more inclusive gender options comes after two major trade organizations, Airlines for America (A4A) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA), adopted more inclusive international standards for all fliers. Moreover, from June 1, A4A and IATA will allow member airlines to offer two additional options: “unidentified” or “unspecified.” There could also be the optional title of “Mx.”
“U.S. airlines value a culture of diversity and inclusion, both in the workplace and for our passengers, and we work hard each day to accommodate the needs of all travelers, while delivering a safe, secure and enjoyable flight experience,” Airlines for America said in a statement.
According to A4A, implementation of the new gender options is up to each individual carrier. Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue, Southwest and United are all members of A4A. They said the change will be made in the next few weeks.
“In the coming weeks, customers will be able to select the gender with which they most closely identify during the booking process,” United Airlines tweeted.
In the coming weeks, customers will be able to select the gender with which they most closely identify during the booking process. https://t.co/NSoaZS6krb— United Airlines (@united) February 15, 2019
American Airlines spokesman Matt Miller said: “We certainly have a very diverse customer base. This will be well-received, and we’re happy to do it.”
United Airlines plans to let people select M for male, F for female, U for undisclosed or X for unspecified from the gender menu when booking a ticket on its website or mobile app, spokesperson Andrea Hiller said. They will also have the option of picking “Mx” as a title.
Some airlines will implement these changes sooner than others. For example, while Southwest said it currently has no timetable for the policy updates, United said it would roll out all four options in the coming weeks.
Delta Airlines is not part of A4A, but they are also working on adding non-binary options for their customers.
“As part of Delta’s ongoing efforts to accommodate the needs of diverse customers throughout our business, we are planning to offer a non-binary gender option during the booking process,” Delta said in a statement.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has policies in place for security screening accommodations for transgender fliers, so it makes sense that airlines would work toward updated guidelines that respect all fliers, regardless of gender or gender presentation, while also adhering to domestic and international laws about passenger identification. The TSA said passengers should use the name, gender and birth date on their government-issued ID.
The decision has been applauded by campaign groups for transgender people.
“It’s a significant step forward for non-binary individuals, so they are not faced with a mismatch between their ticketing information and their legal identification,” Beck Bailey, of the Human Rights Campaign, said.
Mr. Bailey said he was not aware of people with non-binary identification being kept off planes or trains, but that anxiety surrounding being stopped added to their stress.
Ms. Hiller of United Airlines said the airline wants to make sure that “all of our customers feel comfortable and welcome no matter how they self-identify.”
Airlines for America and the International Air Transport Association said the change will let airlines comply with requirements under US and foreign laws that passenger information must match what is on the person’s form of ID used for travel.
The New York City Commission on Gender Equality celebrated the move on Twitter.
“We applaud U.S. Airlines for this critical step in making their policies & practices more gender inclusive. It will take multi-sector efforts to ensure safe, equitable, and inclusive environments for all regardless of gender identity or gender expression,” the organization said.
We applaud U.S. Airlines for this critical step in making their policies & practices more gender inclusive. It will take multi-sector efforts to ensure safe, equitable, and inclusive environments for all regardless of gender identity or gender expression. https://t.co/IAeJ2atHI3— NYC Commission on Gender Equity (@GenderEquityNYC) February 16, 2019
Advocates for transgender rights say this helps people who want to give the most accurate representation of their identities.
The change “is an important step toward ensuring safe and smooth travel for all passengers regardless of their gender,” said the National Center for Transgender Equality’s state policy director Arli Christian, who uses the pronoun “they,” The New York Times reports.
“NCTE applauds the A4A for adding gender options that are reflective of the diversity of their passengers,” Christian said in a statement.
“Non-binary people face unnecessary, invasive, and discriminatory scrutiny by airlines, airports, and security services alike. A4A’s work is in line with other states who offer gender neutral designations on IDs and is an important step toward ensuring safe and smooth travel for all passengers regardless of their gender.”
In 2017, Oregon became the first state to let residents identify themselves as neither male nor female on driver licenses and other ID cards. California, Colorado, Maine, Minnesota, Arkansas, and Washington DC also allow a non-binary choice on licenses.
Other countries have approved laws to help recognise intersex people in recent years – with Austria’s constitutional court making a similar ruling to Germany’s in June. India, Australia, New Zealand, Malta, and Canada have all passed measures to redress issues facing intersex citizens.
According to the UN, up to 1.7% of the world’s population are born with intersex traits which is around the same number of individuals with red hair.