The Gay-Friendliest Airlines in the Skies
In recent years, many airlines have woken up to the truth that our gay brothers and sisters are here, they're queer and they love to travel. As we wrap up National LGBT Pride Month — and celebrate SCOTUS' momentous ruling for gay marriage —I'm taking an in-depth look at which airlines are showing their true rainbow colors. While we can never top the always-hilarious Pam Ann's A-to-Z Airline Guide, here's a look at the gay-friendliest airlines in the skies.
Scandinavian Airlines (SAS)
Our first shout-out has to go to Scandinavian Airlines (SAS). In the hands of another company, its 2010 PR campaign to have the first in-flight gay and lesbian wedding ceremonies would have been nothing more than a stunt. But one look at the "Love is in the air" blog that gave updates on the promotion (warning: you WILL cry) shows a group of people who displayed an overwhelming amount of respect, love, admiration and joy for what it's really all about: love. And fabulous outfits.
This campaign was not soon forgotten, either: In 2012, SAS was named Favorite Airline at the EDGE Awards. SAS is also a member of the Stockholm Gay and Lesbian Network, and partners with VisitSweden in the US, which promotes Sweden as a leading LGBT destination.
Delta Air Lines
Next on our list of faves is Delta: Not only has the airline been corporate a sponsor of and participant in yearly Pride events ("NYC Pride, LA Pride, Utah Pride Festival, Motor City Pride, Seattle PrideFest, Twin Cities Pride, Atlanta Pride and Pride Toronto, among other festivals"), but it has proudly claimed its commitment to LGBT employees as well:
We are proud to have been designated one of the Human Rights Campaign’s (HRC) “Best Places To Work” for LGBT employees in 2010 and 2011, and we continue to earn near-perfect scores on HRC’s Corporate Equality Index ever since. Our people participate in and support the efforts of DEEN, Delta’s Employee Equality Network.
Our employees in same-sex relationships enjoy health, dental, life insurance, pension and flight benefits for domestic partners, and we updated our policies to cover any federal or state income or payroll tax burden associated with their coverage. The result is true equality in health care coverage costs between same-sex domestic partners and employees in legally recognized marriages — regardless of U.S. location.
Rock on, Delta! That's walking the walk.
American Airlines is on our list of gay-friendly faves, as well. It's "the first airline loyalty program that invites you to highlight LGBT interests" in traveler profiles, and perhaps you heard about its Pride logo this month?
Isn't that great? Well, not everyone thought so (quelle surprise). But far from trying to explain or defend itself, AA simply stopped ignorance in its tracks:
The disappointed Mr. Lorick has since locked his account. (H/T: Pizza In Motion)
While we're on the subject of effective social media, Virgin makes my list for this tweet alone:
Air New Zealand
Air New Zealand has had a bit of a bumpy ride in maintaining a consistent focus on LGBT customers, but for the most part it's on the side of the angels. The airline was certainly ahead of the pack in 2007 with its Pink Flight, which featured a drag queen stewardess, pink airplane food and a shirtless competition on its way from SFO to the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras in Sydney.
But then in 2010, an otherwise amusing in-flight safety video featuring the All Blacks rugby team had a weirdly homophobic moment (start at 2:55) that sparked enough complaints to have the video pulled. On the bright side, it's been smooth sailing since 2013, when ANZ hosted an in-flight wedding on the first day it was legal in New Zealand. GOOOOOOAL!
Speaking of branded party flights, though, it's time to bring up the otherwise low-key Austrian Airlines. With the support of the Vienna Tourist Board, Austrian Airlines specially branded a Boeing 777 from JFK to Vienna for the Life Ball in 2014. The company's press release is Austrian-level staid: "Austrian Airlines colleagues are wearing red ribbons during this time as a sign of its solidarity," but the photos from the flight itself tell an entirely different — and fabulous — story. What a hot mess of a flight!
JetBlue's laid-back hipness and upbeat attitude has always extended to the LGBT community, and it's paid off:
JetBlue Airways Corporation, New York's Hometown Airline, is proud to announce that it has earned the top score of 100 percent on the 2015 Corporate Equality Index (CEI), a leading survey and report on corporate policies and practices related to LGBT workplace equality from the Human Rights Campaign Foundation. In addition to supporting JetPride, an LGBT peer resource group for its crewmembers, JetBlue supports an array of nonprofit groups focused on LGBT equality. Among these are Athlete Ally, Boston Gay Men's Chorus, Empire State Pride Agenda, National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, New York City Anti-Violence Project, PFLAG NYC, Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund and pride celebrations at its focus cities in Long Beach, CA and San Juan, Puerto Rico."
Lastly, one airline that put the "T" in LGBT was PC Air, which in 2011 introduced transgender flight attendants after receiving more than 100 job applications from transgender candidates. Sadly, the charter airline is no longer in business after a row with its sales agent that resulted in the airline's only plane being impounded — but for a brief shining moment, this airline made transgender history.