Airlines in the United States will soon be offering additional gender options besides “male” and “female” when purchasing flight tickets. The new options of “undisclosed” or “unspecified” are intended to aid travelers, as many local, state and national governments now issue identification documents with alternative gender options.
In January, a law in New York City made it easier for transgender and non-binary individuals to match their birth certificate to their gender identity, and in 2017, Washington, D.C. issued the first gender-neutral driver licenses in the United States. Oregon, California, Colorado, Maine, Minnesota and Arkansas also allow gender-neutral driver licenses.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) requires that the gender markers selected on tickets must match those on the identification documents travelers present at the agency checkpoints while going through security. These new options will make it easier for gender nonconforming passengers to travel with documents that more accurately represent their gender identities.
“U.S. airlines value a culture of diversity and inclusion, both in the workplace and for our passengers,” said Airlines for America, a trade group that represents many United States airlines.
Groups that advocate for transgender and gender nonconforming rights believe that the new options present benefits for all travelers, regardless of gender identity, but especially for those who identify as transgender.
“NCTE applauds the [Airlines for America] for adding gender options that are reflective of the diversity of their passengers,” said Arli Christian, a spokesperson for The National Center for Transgender Equality, in a statement.
“Non-binary people face unnecessary, invasive and discriminatory scrutiny by airlines, airports and security services alike,” said Christian, who uses the pronoun “they.” As gender-neutral forms of identification become more widely available, policy presents “an important step toward ensuring safe and smooth travel for all passengers regardless of their gender.”
Airlines for America holds that the time to make the change is up to each individual airline. United Airlines, a member of Airlines for America, plans to implement the change in the coming weeks. They said in a statement that “in the coming weeks, customers will be able to identify themselves as M(ale), F(emale), U(undisclosed) or X(unspecified)” and that “customers who do not identify with a gender will have the option of selecting ‘Mx.’ as a title.”
The airlines want to ensure that, “all of our customers feel comfortable and welcome no matter how they self-identify,” said United Airlines spokesperson Andrea Hiller.
Alaska Airlines, American Airlines and Southwest Airlines, all Airlines for America members, are planning to implement new gender options. Delta Air Lines, which is not an Airlines for American member, also plans to introduce additional gender options.
“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,” said Delta in a statement.