Know Before You Go: Tips for Transgender and Nonbinary Travelers - United Hub

Know before you go: Tips for transgender and nonbinary travelers

By The Hub team

By Alex Verman

This story was originally published on AFAR | May 30, 2019

For people whose gender identity doesn't match the one assigned to them on their birth certificate, dealing with air travel can present a host of obstacles. Here's what U.S. travelers need to know about flying outside of the binary.

If you're a transgender or nonbinary traveler, making your way through the airport can feel like a journey in itself. Different airlines and airports enforce varying policies when it comes to harassment and discrimination, but all air travel requires in some way that travelers "declare" a gender as part of their identification. For transgender people and nonbinary folk (those whose internal sense of self isn't exclusively male or female), this means effectively outing yourself to every TSA official you encounter.

To offset the anxieties that come with navigating the airport as a transgender or nonbinary person, it can be helpful to know what to expect before traveling in order to prepare your documents and review your answers to security questions. These tips will give you the information you need to make smart decisions and figure out what works for you while preparing for air travel.

Navigating gender markers on travel documents

Passports

According to the U.S. State Department website, changing the name or gender marker on a U.S. passport requires submitting a DS-11 application form complete with a recent form of government-issued identification and a passport-appropriate photo (both of which must resemble your current appearance), proof of legal name change (for those changing their names) and a medical certification indicating that you have received — or are in the process of receiving — clinical treatment for your transition. Templates for this medical certification, which must be signed by a licensed physician, can be downloaded from the government agency's website. It's important to note that a description of the specific "treatment" is not required in the medical certification and need not be limited only to gender confirmation surgery — the State Department intentionally leaves it open for interpretation.

Still, some trans women have reported encountering unexpected roadblocks in getting their names and gender markers changed on their passports in the United States. In these cases, it took the intervention of a sympathetic politician to sort out a simple bureaucratic error. It's unclear how widespread this problem is, but just in case, nonbinary and trans people hoping to use their correct names and gender identities on their travel documents should start updating their passports well in advance of their intended travel date.

Whether or not you're able to change your name and gender marker, the main thing is that your passport photo somewhat matches your actual physical appearance. If your appearance has changed significantly since starting your transition, you may want to renew your passport with an updated photo and carry an additional piece of I.D. that matches the information on your passport. (Across the United States, rules regarding name and gender changes on drivers' licenses vary. The National Center for Transgender Equality has a helpful search tool that spotlights policies specific to each state.)

While the United States doesn't currently offer gender neutral passports, many other countries do provide some variation for travelers who don't identify with the "male" or "female" binary gender options. For instance, Australia, Denmark, Germany, Malta, New Zealand and Pakistan also have an "X" category, while India, Ireland and Nepal provide various third gender options. My Canadian passport has an "X" (undetermined), along with an "M" (male). Sure, it's a bit of an unsatisfying compromise, but there's still something reassuring about having a government document that acknowledges my nonbinary identity.

Flight tickets

Earlier this year, Airlines for America (A4A) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced that starting June 1, 2019, both major trade organizations would allow airlines to offer two new gender options for travelers booking flights: "U" (undisclosed) or "X" (unspecified), in contrast to the previous binary system consisting of "M" (male) and "F" (female) titles only. Following the update, all five major airlines in the United States — United, Alaska, American, Delta, and Southwest — announced that they plan to shift toward more inclusive gender options for travelers.

This spring, United Airlines became the first U.S. airline to provide gender neutral options in its booking process. (This change came with newly implemented training sessions for United employees — offered by the Human Rights Campaign and The Trevor Project, an organization devoted to mental health advocacy for LGBTQ youth — which cover topics such as gender discrimination and use of preferred pronouns.)

Although the rest of the aforementioned airlines maintain plans to add the new gender options, most currently have no timetable for the update. All the same, the real test will be in how transgender and nonbinary people are treated in real life while traveling.

Getting through airport security

TSA pat-downs and scans

Security scans and pat-downs are infamous among transgender travelers. At U.S. airports, TSA requires passengers to go through a full-body Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) scanner that operates on a binary gender system — it's programmed to read certain bodies in certain ways and to see any "irregularities" as signs of danger. As you can imagine, this poses problems for some trans people, for whom a bulge in the "wrong" place is often misperceived as a security threat. (Before each passenger enters the machine, a TSA agent must press a blue "male" or pink "female" button so that the device's Automatic Target Recognition software can detect "anomalies" not consistent with the passenger's assigned gender.)

If an "anomaly" is detected, the AIT machine will ring an alarm, which means you'll have to receive additional screening before passing through airport security — often in the form of a pat-down. For some people, this can be an uncomfortable experience of public humiliation. According to the TSA website, travelers can initially request a pat-down instead of an AIT scan, which avoids the potential embarrassment of the alarm (even though the end result of a pat-down is the same). You can also request an inspecting TSA agent who matches your gender identity, and you can request to have the pat-down conducted in a private area with a companion of your choosing.

Packing medications, prosthetics, and implants

Most airlines and airports will allow you to travel with medications and supplies in your carry-on, although they should be packed in a separate bag within your luggage. For transgender travelers who inject their hormones, it's best to pack any medical syringes alongside their corresponding medications and to try to keep the pharmaceutical label intact. The TSA website also advises travelers to declare any syringes or dilators to inspectors before going through security and to travel with proof of the medical necessity of the item(s).

Transgender travelers wearing chest binders or prosthetic devices may need to undergo Explosive Trace Detection (ETD), or swabbing. (Implants should not pose any issue.) The National Center for Transgender Equality states that travelers are not required to "lift, remove, or raise an article of clothing to reveal a prosthetic item and should not be asked to remove it." According to their website, if a TSA officer asks you to reveal a prosthetic item, you can ask to speak to a supervisor. You can also ask to be screened in a private room. Still, this whole process can be time-consuming, so make sure to arrive early to account for delays.

Transgender or nonbinary travelers with questions about medical equipment and devices can call the TSA Cares hotline in advance of their trip at 1-855-787-2227.

The most important thing to keep in mind

Airports can be unsettling spaces for everyone but especially for trans and nonbinary people —and particularly for trans people of color. Airports are not simply binary spaces; they are also under heavy security. The important thing to remember is that there's nothing "wrong" with you or your body. There's no reason for people to be seeing you as a threat, and you have every right to demand respectful treatment. As with any negative customer experience, if you have any issues with airline or TSA personnel, you can report it.

Remember, navigating the airport is just one part of the trip. For better or worse, your time there doesn't have to define your travel experience. The rest of it is up to you.

Beach or mountains? Take your pick with our newly announced routes to the West Coast, the Rocky Mountains and the Caribbean

By Matt Adams , November 21, 2019

We will continue building out our already expansive route network next year, adding flights to some attractive leisure destinations in the United States and the Caribbean.

Our hometown hub, Chicago O'Hare International Airport, will be the beneficiary of three of those new routes, which include Santa Barbara, California; Pasco, Washington; and Vail, Colorado. Rounding it out, United will add service from Denver to Nassau, Bahamas, and from Houston to Spokane, Washington. Tickets for all of these destinations are on sale now.

Colorful houses in Nassau

The Denver-Nassau route will begin on March 7, 2020, followed by Chicago-Santa Barbara, Chicago-Pasco, Chicago-Vail and Houston-Spokane on June 4. When that time comes, United will be the only airline offering nonstop service between Denver and Nassau and Chicago and Pasco.

All of these routes will open up a world of connection possibilities for customers living in each market. They'll also be scheduled to give flyers optimal arrival and departure time options. For instance, a passenger going from Chicago to Santa Barbara will have a flight option that departs O'Hare at 7:45 p.m. local time, arriving at Santa Barbara Airport at 10:30 p.m. That's ideal for business travelers.

"We want to offer customers the very best schedule, the best network and the most flight options in the industry," said Ankit Gupta, United's vice president of Domestic Network Planning.

The Boeing 737-800 aircraft will serve the Denver-Nassau route. Passengers going from Chicago to Santa Barbara and from Chicago to Vail will fly on the 737-700. United's 76-seat Embraer 175 aircraft, equipped with United First, Economy Plus and United Economy class seats, will operate on the Chicago-Pasco and Houston-Spokane routes.

You'll find flight times and additional details in the grid below. For more information and to book your tickets, visit united.com or download the United mobile app.

Depart

Arrive

Frequency

Duration

Chicago (ORD)

7:45 p.m.

Santa Barbara (SBA)

10:30 p.m.

Daily

Year-round

SBA

11:20 p.m.

ORD

5:20 a.m.

Daily

Year-round

ORD

8:00 p.m.

Pasco (PSC)

10:24 p.m.

Daily

Year-round

PSC

11:38 p.m.

ORD

5:20 a.m.

Daily

Year-round

ORD

4:00 p.m.

Vail/Eagle (EGE)

5:54 p.m.

Daily

Summer seasonal

(June 4 through September 6, 2020)

EGE

9:00 a.m.


ORD

12:45 p.m.

Daily

Summer seasonal

(June 4 through September 7, 2020)

Denver (DEN)

9:56 a.m.

Nassau (NAS)

4:00 p.m.

Once a week on Saturdays

Year-round

(with a break from mid-August through late-October)

NAS

11:37 a.m.

DEN

2:43 p.m.

Once a week on Saturdays

Year-round

(with a break from mid-August through late-October)

Houston (IAH)

9:32 p.m.

Spokane (GEG)

11:32 p.m.

Daily

Summer seasonal

(June 4 through August 17, 2020)

GEG

11:55 p.m.

IAH

6:17 a.m.

Daily

Summer seasonal

(June 4 through August 17, 2020)

Reflecting on Veterans Day: a message from our CEO Oscar Munoz

By Oscar Munoz, CEO, United Airlines , November 11, 2019

Right now, around the world, brave members of America's armed forces are on duty, defending our freedom and upholding our values.

When not laser-focused on the mission at hand, they're looking forward to the day when their service to our nation is fulfilled and they can reunite with their families.

They are also imagining how they can use their hard-earned skills to build an exciting, rewarding and important career when they return home.

I want them to look no further than United Airlines.

That's why we are focused on recruiting, developing and championing veterans across our company, demonstrating to our returning women and men in uniform that United is the best possible place for them to put their training, knowledge, discipline and character to the noblest use.

They've developed their knowledge and skills in some of the worst of times. We hope they will use those skills to keep United performing at our best, all of the time.

That's why we are accelerating our efforts to onboard the best and the brightest, and substantially increasing our overall recruitment numbers each year.

We recently launched a new sponsorship program to support onboarding veterans into United and a new care package program to support deployed employees. It's one more reason why United continues to rank high - and rise higher - as a top workplace for veterans. In fact, we jumped 21 spots this year on Indeed.com's list of the top U.S workplaces for veterans. This is a testament to our increased recruiting efforts, as well as our efforts to create a culture where veterans feel valued and supported.

We use the special reach and resources of our global operations to partner with outstanding organizations. This is our way of stepping up and going the extra mile for all those who've stepped forward to answer our nation's call.

We do this year-round, and the month of November is no exception; however, it is exceptional, especially as we mark Veterans Day.

As we pay tribute to all Americans who have served in uniform and carried our flag into battle throughout our history, let's also keep our thoughts with the women and men who are serving around the world, now. They belong to a generation of post-9/11 veterans who've taken part in the longest sustained period of conflict in our history.

Never has so much been asked by so many of so few.... for so long. These heroes represent every color and creed. They are drawn from across the country and many immigrated to our shores.

They then freely choose to serve in the most distant and dangerous regions of the world, to protect democracy in its moments of maximum danger.

Wherever they serve - however they serve - whether they put on a uniform each day, or serve in ways which may never be fully known, these Americans wake up each morning willing to offer the "last full measure of devotion" on our behalf.

Every time they do so, they provide a stunning rebuke to the kinds of voices around the world who doubt freedom and democracy's ability to defend itself.

Unfortunately, we know there are those who seem to not understand – or say they do not - what it is that inspires a free people to step forward, willing to lay down their lives so that their country and fellow citizens might live.

But, we – who are both the wards and stewards of the democracy which has been preserved and handed down to us by veterans throughout our history – do understand.

We know that inciting fear and hatred of others is a source of weakness, not strength. And such divisive rhetoric can never inspire solidarity or sacrifice like love for others and love of country can.

It is this quality of devotion that we most honor in our veterans - those who have served, do serve and will serve.

On behalf of a grateful family of 96,000, thank you for your service.

Humbly,

Oscar

United named a top workplace for veterans

By The Hub team , November 10, 2019

Each year around Veterans Day, Indeed, one of the world's largest job search engines, rates companies based on actual employee reviews to identify which ones offer the best opportunities and benefits for current and former U.S. military members. Our dramatic improvement in the rankings this year reflects a stronger commitment than ever before to actively recruiting, developing and nurturing veteran talent.

"We've spent a lot of time over the past 12 months looking for ways to better connect with our employees who served and attract new employees from the military ranks," said Global Catering Operations and Logistics Managing Director Ryan Melby, a U.S. Army veteran and the president of our United for Veterans business resource group.

"Our group is launching a mentorship program, for instance, where we'll assign existing employee-veterans to work with new hires who come to us from the armed forces. Having a friend and an ally like that, someone who can help you translate the skills you picked up in the military to what we do as a civilian company, is invaluable. That initiative is still in its infancy, but I'm really optimistic about what it can do for United and for our veteran population here."

Impressively, we were the only one of our industry peers to move up on the list, further evidence that we're on a good track as a company.

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