By Brittany Shoot
February 16, 2019

Air travelers in the United States will soon have new gender options when booking their flights. The five major airlines in the U.S.—Alaska, American, Delta, Southwest, and United—all confirmed to USA Today that they plan to offer the non-binary option to accommodate individuals who do not fit neatly into the male or female category. Other airlines may follow suit.

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. In addition to “female” and “male” gender options available when booking air travel, from June 1, A4A and IATA will allow member airlines to offer two additional options: “unidentified” or “unspecified.”

The change should also streamline security procedures that have long caused distress to non-binary people, including transgender travelers. Federal regulations require that identity documents correspond with the traveler, and stories about extra scrutiny on non-binary travelers abound. 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.

Some airlines will implement these changes sooner than others. For example, while (luv) Southwest said it currently has no timetable for the policy updates, United said it would roll out all four options in the coming weeks.

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