HRC Blog

Workplace Equality Takes Off in Airline Industry

Over the past decade, we have witnessed an explosion in the establishment and growth of LGBT Employee Resource Groups (ERG’s) around the country. In addition to providing a voice for employees within large companies, these groups have evolved to cross company lines in changing policies for entire industries. The latest example is in the airline industry. LGBT ERG’s were a driving force in the industry’s recent agreement to provide the same reciprocal travel discounts to spouses of same-sex couples as they traditionally have for heterosexual spouses. Tim Kincaid, a former American Airlines employee and a founder of their LGBT Employee Resource Group, GLEAM, explains:

If you have ever worked for an airline, you probably share a real love of global travel. And whether you have worked as a flight crew member or on the ground, you also know that one of the meaningful rewards from airline employment comes from enjoying travel privileges and employee discounts as a way to reward on-the-job loyalty and outstanding service. Airlines frequently made these basic privileges available to the married spouses of their employees too. Regrettably, however, for many years, same-sex partners were never equally eligible as heterosexual spouses. But this year, something truly unprecedented happened. This may be the very first occasion that almost an entire industry has climbed on board for equal travel privileges for their LGBT workforce and retired employees. On April 1, American Airlines made it official when they told their employees and retirees with domestic partners that in addition to their eligibility for reduced rates on all American and American Eagle flights – they will now also qualify for reduced rates on all of the 86 airlines around the world with which they have a reciprocal agreement. This new policy touches same-sex couples, still working or retired from 86 airlines, to travel on reduced rate tickets to more places across the globe on many of the most popular carriers. This signals global fairness for thousands of same-sex couples connected not just with one airline but with dozens more. When we reach an entire industry, then I can honestly believe we are making a lasting impact for all of us. Over the past year American worked closely within industry organizations to help secure this airline innovation – all while seeking frequent advice from the leaders of American’s LGBT employee resource group, GLEAM.

John Tanzella, President and CEO of the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA) applauded this breakthrough:

This remarkable progress in global travel is inspiring to all of us at IGLTA. We thank our airline and hospitality leaders for staying true to our industry’s commitment to fairness for all. We hope that many employers will mirror this fairness in the future in all the ways that really matter to us, from equal health benefits to employment non-discrimination policies.

Congratulations to all our friends at GLEAM and other airlines’ ERG’s that are working to create change. HRC is proud to partner with many companies through their LGBT Employee Resource Groups to continue to improve the experiences of LGBT employees nationwide. We also frequently tap into this network to build corporate coalitions supporting LGBT legislation, such as ENDA and the repeal of the unfair tax on domestic partner benefits. For more information, please visit www.hrc.org/workplace.

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