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Vistara, Air Asia add gender-neutral 'Mx' option on booking platforms

Indrajeet Ghorpade had started a petition to make air ticket booking gender-neutral

Air-India-Vistara-amey (File) Air India and Vistara aircraft at Mumbai International Airport | Amey Mansabdar

Ahead of Pride Month 2022, Air Vistara and AirAsia made their ticket booking ‘gender-neutral’ – an attempt to show solidarity with the LGBTQIA+ community in India.

Two years ago, when Indrajeet Ghorpade, a member of the LGBTQIA+ group ‘YesWeExist’, was trying to book an airline ticket for his friend who is a trans, non-binary person, he realised that none of the airline companies in India offered any “gender-neutral titles”.

“Many members of the LGBTQI community prefer using the ‘Mx’ title. But, I was shocked to see that the ‘Mx’ option was not available while booking air tickets in India,” says Indrajeet.

To make air ticket booking gender-neutral, Indrajeet started a petition on Change.org called StopPinkWashing. He started speaking about the issue on social media and garnered support for his cause. He simultaneously started writing emails to airlines to alert them to the issue and sensitise them to the community’s demands. Over 33,000 people signed his petition and supported his cause.

inderjeet Indrajeet Ghorpade | Sourced image

“In India, the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019, does not allow airline companies to discriminate. However, in reality, until recently, no airline booking forms included the gender-neutral title ‘Mx’, which many in the LGBTQ community prefer to use. Due to this, passengers who use ‘Mx’, were forced to pick an inaccurate title for themselves, either ‘Mr’, ‘Mrs’ or ‘Ms’, in order to book a ticket,” he says.

Two years after he started the petition, and after months of campaigning and following up with several airline companies that operate in India, two leading airlines Vistara and AirAsia agreed to be inclusive, and updated their systems, adding the option ‘Mx’ to their ticket booking forms.

“This is just the first step but an important one. Indian airports continue to view gender as binary even though the Indian law does not. There are no gender-neutral washrooms at Indian airports and the security check procedures too, segregate passengers as Male and Female. In many other countries, airports have a common security queue for people of all genders and the scanning is performed by a machine, instead of a security personnel,” he says.

Indrajeet is hopeful that soon Air India will also make the change, now that the Tatas own both Air India and Air Vistara. "Once these three big airlines have made the change in their booking platform, then hopefully airline authorities will works towards making airports more queer friendly. At least that will be my next action plan."

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