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Delta Airlines Changes Policy After Discriminatory Incident With Black Doctor

Just two months after a Black doctor was barred from providing care to an ill passenger on a Delta flight from Detroit to Houston, the airline corporation finally announced changes to its policy that would no longer require medical professionals to present identification.

Effective Dec. 1, Delta flight attendants are no longer obligated to verify medical credentials from medical professionals, the company declared in a statement this week. Passengers who are indeed medical professionals may now simply state that they’re a physician, a physician assistant, nurse, paramedic or EMT, and they will be allowed to help in the event of a medical emergency.

“Delta found that there is no legal or regulatory requirement upon the airline to view medical professional credentials,” the company said Monday. “And as it becomes more and more common for medical licenses to be verified online, physicians and nurses often do not carry a license with them and some states no longer issue wallet versions.”

The airline’s new policies are a complete about-face from the stance that prompted Dr. Tamika Cross to take to social media in October and accuse the company of racial discrimination.

In a viral Facebook post, Cross detailed her experience on a flight out of Detroit during which a male passenger a few rows in front of her fell ill and became unresponsive. Cross, who’s an OB-GYN, quickly tried to alert the flight attendants that she was a doctor and could administer medical aid to the sick passenger. But, she was denied.

“[The flight attendant] said to me ‘Oh no, sweetie, put ur hand down, we are looking for actual physicians or nurses or some type of medical personnel, we don’t have time to talk to you,’ ” she wrote of the humiliating incident.

Cross said she tried to tell the flight crew members once again that she was in fact a medical professional, to which one of them responded, “Oh wow, you’re an actual physician?” That’s when the flight attendant asked her to present her credentials, which Cross said she did not have on her at the time.

Moments later, the OB-GYN said an older white male came forward and said he was a medical official as well. The flight attendant then told Cross, “‘Thanks for your help, but he can help us, and he has his credentials.’ ”

Cross asserted that the white man never showed his credentials, but he was allowed to help out because he fit the description of a typical doctor: white and male.

Delta has since issued an apology for the incident, adding that discrimination of any kind is never acceptable. But just this week, the airline was in hot water again after a YouTube personality claimed he was kicked off of a flight for speaking Arabic.

To keep similar incidents from happening again, Delta also announced the launch of its inclusion training for incoming employees, noting that front-line staff “with some of the flight attendant groups” would be the first to participate in the program.

On Monday, Cross thanked the airline in a Facebook post, saying she was “pleased with how the executives at Delta Airlines have responded to this important issue.”

“It is great that this incident was able to produce change and hopefully make other medical professionals, regardless of who they may be, feel comfortable assisting when 30,000 feet in the air,” she wrote. “Thank you, Delta, for implementing change.”

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