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Delta Air Lines accused of discrimination after ‘refusing non-binary passenger’

Maggie Baska January 11, 2022
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A Delta branded airplane flies in a blue sky

Delta will be changing its booking system to include a non-binary gender option after facing backlash on social media. (Massimo Insabato/Archivio Massimo Insabato/Mondadori Portfolio via Getty)

Delta has promised to offer a gender-neutral marker on bookings after the airline was accused of “discriminating” against non-binary passengers.

Dawn Henry, a mother from Arizona, described the “ongoing saga” of her trying to buy a plane ticket as a Christmas present for her non-binary adult child in a lengthy thread of posts on Twitter.

As she went through the process, Henry discovered that Delta only issues tickets with male and female gender markers – and not tickets with a gender-neutral “X” marker.

As such, Henry alleged Delta was “discriminating” against non-binary people and “not allowing them to fly despite legal ID issued by states that allow X on birth certificates and state-issued IDs”.

 

Henry explained that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) “requires that the boarding pass reservation match your state-issued ID”, and that the TSA “accepts X as a gender marker on state IDs”. Her child’s ID has an X marker.

Several major US airlines – including American, Delta, United, Southwest, Alaska and JetBlue – confirmed to NBC News in 2019 that they would be updating their booking tools to include a non-binary gender option. They said at the time that the change would happen in a couple of weeks.

But almost three years later, Henry said Delta’s “online reservations systems” still only has male or female gender options.

So she called Delta, but the representative was “unable to change the gender designation to X”.

“The Delta rep was determined to help, but after over 30 minutes on hold, she told me ‘they’ said it doesn’t matter what the ID says, use what’s on the birth certificate,” Henry wrote. “I explained that the birth certificate also says X.”

After being put on hold once again, Henry said a supervisor eventually came on the line and reiterated that the system “uses male/female and I can only use one of those”.

Henry explained that her adult child is non-binary and has an X marker on their ID, meaning the TSA requires them to fly with the correct X gender marker on their ticket.

She said that at this point the supervisor “got short with me”, saying “that’s the policy”.

“I said, are you telling me you aren’t allowing my non-binary LGBTQ kid who has a perfectly legal state-issued ID to fly?” Henry wrote.

Henry continued: ‘She said ‘no, I’m not saying that, it’s just the policy at Delta’.”

“I pointed out it has that effect if TSA requires matching documents and there’s no way to buy a ticket with a gender that matches the state-issued non-binary gender on the ID,” she added. Henry eventually hung up out of frustration, without purchasing a ticket.

She added: “As it stands, at least with Delta, non-binary people are not allowed to fly. The supervisor said that’s not true. But 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.”

 

 

A Delta spokesperson told PinkNews that the airline has “begun the process of updating” its booking system to be more LGBT+ inclusive and will offer a non-binary gender option in the latter part of this year.

The spokesperson said: “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.

“As such, we have begun the process of updating our booking systems to be more inclusive by offering a non-binary gender option. We expect this option to be available to customers during the fourth quarter of 2022.”

Henry told NBC News that she is still frustrated by the situation, but she hoped that speaking out about her experience will create widespread changes across the airline and travel industry.

“I am committed to fixing this, not just for my child, but for everyone who holds legal ID with an X gender marker,” Henry said. “My hope is that pressure on the airlines (not just Delta, but the others that have not updated their systems) will get this done.”

More: delta, non-binary, x gender markers

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