Delta Air Lines announced Tuesday that it will begin providing dedicated diversity training for its flight crews.
The announcement comes amid scathing criticism of the airline on social media since a midair incident in October, when a black physician who volunteered to assist an ailing passenger said a flight attendant told her, “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.”
Delta made the training mandatory for executives last year and will start training its 23,000 flight attendants this spring, airline spokesman Brian Kruse confirmed to FoxNews.com.
"As part of Delta’s ongoing diversity and inclusion efforts, the airline launched inclusion training four months ago for Delta leaders," Kruse said in an emailed statement to FoxNews.com, noting that "cultural sensitivity training has long been part of Delta’s flight crew curriculum."
Though Kruse would not specify when the training would be completed, he noted that "some of the flight attendant groups [will be] the first to participate" in the training.
American Airlines requires flight attendants to attend a “refresher” course every two years; Southwest Airlines mandates that new hires attend anti-discrimination and anti-harassment courses; and United Airlines requires all employees who interact with customers to receive recurrent diversity training. Kruse says Delta has been doing some type of diveristy training for over 15 years.
Delta said it moved up its decision to require diversity training after Tamika Cross, a Houston-based gynecologist, wrote about her snub on Facebook, adding that the flight attendant then permitted a white male physician to attend to the passenger.
“We’re using this incident and others as an opportunity to improve,” Kruse told Bloomberg referring to the viral post.
“Their brand reputation is critical, and you don’t want that reputation to be damaged,” Jason Wingard, dean of Columbia University’s School of Professional Studies and a consultant on diversity issues, told Bloomberg.
“Success for consumer-facing companies such as airlines is “tied to customer loyalty and emotions,” Wingard said.
In another widely reported incident, Delta CEO Ed Bastian banned a passenger for life in November after he was videotaped yelling in support of President-elect Donald Trump. Bastian also refunded the other passengers’ tickets.
“The heightened tension in our society means that now more than ever, we must require civility on our planes,” Bastian wrote in a memo to employees.
Delta’s diversity training will use “real and relevant scenarios” and discuss unconscious bias and so-called microaggressions, Keyra Lynn Johnson, managing director for diversity and inclusion, told Bloomberg. “This goes well beyond the typical cross-cultural training.”
The U.S. Department of Transportation issued new guidelines on nondiscrimination for airline personnel on Friday to help them understand their obligation not to discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex or ancestry in air travel. The department also issued a document for passengers, explaining their right to fly free from all forms of unlawful discrimination.