In the United States, gender is a required data field for flight bookings. The requirement is set by the Transport Security Administration in 2009 as part of the Secure Flight program, an initiative that sprang from the 9/11 Commission. This allowed the agency to use additional passenger information, including gender, in later stages of screening to differentiate passengers from those on federal watch lists, such as the No Fly list.
This year, the Transport Security Administration announced changes to its policy to be more gender inclusive. It has updated its standard procedure: in February to no longer use gender to validate identification at checkpoints, and also introduced the gender markers “X” (unspecified) and “U” (not disclosed) in applications for PreCheck, its prescreening program. Robert C. Langston, a TSA spokesperson, said the agency is “committed to ensuring that all travelers are treated with respect and dignity,” and that it recognizes the concerns of transgender, non-binary and non-compliant travelers about security screening procedures.
When the writer Isle McElroy flew to New York from Bangor, Maine in March, a TSA agent asked “pink or blue,” referring to the buttons the officer presses when passengers go through the body scan, which currently uses gender-specific standards for its security checks. . mx. McElroy chose blue for man because it seemed most convenient at the moment. “It’s always extremely scary for me because I have to assume a fake version of myself,” Mx. said McElroy. The TSA said it hopes to begin updating its scanners later this year to no longer be gender-specific.
While many international airlines are not required to collect gender data during bookings, some airlines still require the selection of honorific titles such as Mr. or Mrs. on their own websites and do not offer a gender neutral alternative such as Mx. (pronounced “mix”), or an empty option. An exception is Air Canada, which in 2020 released a new reservation system with non-binary honorifics. Air New Zealand has an Mx. title available, but still only offers male or female in the optional gender field. The airline is looking for an “undisclosed” option, a spokeswoman said.
British Airways announced in 2019 that it acquired non-binary options, but has not yet updated its system (it does offer viscount and viscountess titles – according to British Society chronicler Debrett’s, there are currently 115 viscounts). KLM expects to have non-binary options by 2023 and Air France will have them available “soon”, according to Arturo Diaz, a spokesperson for both airlines.