Canadian airline Air Transat has been accused of refusing to let a transgender woman board her flight from Glasgow to Toronto, Canada.
Ari Bianca Silvera, who has dual Italian and Argentinian citizenship and who lives in Scotland, was planning to travel to Toronto with her partner to attend a friend’s wedding. Silvera alleges she was refused to board the flight, despite having with her both her Italian and Argentinian passports and an affadavit confirming her change of gender.
According to Ms Silvera, the problem arose because her Italian passport was issued before her transition, still describes her as male and uses her old name Ariel. Despite this, she said: “I have used it consistently to travel for the last eight years, both within Europe, to the United States and to South America, with no issue. This is the first time I have been denied boarding a flight.” She also said other airlines had accepted her Italian passport with the affadavit, these airlines including American Airlines, British Airways, Easy Jet and Ryanair.
Her Argentinian passport has her correct gender and she was told she would need to use that passport to board. However, unlike Italy, Argentinian passport holders require a visa. Ms Silvera did not have a visa as she intended to use her Italian passport.
Ms Silvera said she has for some time been trying to change the gender on her Italian passport, but claims in Italy she is faced with labyrinthine bureacracy, particularly as she has been attempting to do this while living in Scotland. She said: “I have not managed to obtain a new Italian passport yet due to the complex nature of gender recognition procedures through Italian bureaucracy.” On her twitter feed she wrote: “Italian consulate in Edinburgh laughed at me when I tried last time.”
According to Ms Silvera she was told by a Canadian High Commission representative that whether she was allowed to board the plane was at the airline’s discretion.
In various tweets, Air Transat claimed the problem was that Ms Silvera did not have the correct paperwork. They tweeted: “Mrs Silveira [sic] could not board her plane because she did not possess all required paperwork to travel (visa).” Note that the tweet misspells her name, as well as describing her as “Mrs” when she is not married.
Ms Silvera alleged that Air Transat was attempting to force her to use her Argentinian passport, which would require her to have a visa, rather than the Italian passport she usually travels on.
This despite the fact that people with dual citizenship can decide for themselves which passport to use for foreign travel. She also said she was told she could use her Italian passport if she was prepared to travel as a male, something she refused to do.
KaleidoScot has contacted Air Transat for clarification but has not, as yet, received any response.
James Morton, Scottish Transgender Alliance Manager, told KaleidoScot: “It is extremely difficult to change gender on your passport in Italy and many other countries. This leaves many trans people in very stressful situations when travelling as they end up having to explain their transition to airlines. For an airline to refuse to accept a trans person’s perfectly valid passport with accompanying proof of their transition is unacceptable and we would encourage anyone who experiences that to take forward a claim of gender reassignment discrimination.”