Delta Air Lines has initiated a policy change following the fallout after a black doctor was reportedly barred from helping an unresponsive passenger and condescendingly dismissed by a flight attendant, the Washington Post reports.
Back in October, Houston obstetrician and gynecologist Tamika Cross' Facebook post went viral after she recounted the dismissive racism she encountered on a Delta flight from Detroit to Houston.
A male passenger on the flight had become unresponsive, and according to Cross, when she attempted to rush to the man's aid, a flight attendant said, “Oh no, sweetie, put your 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.”
When Cross told the flight attendant that she was, in fact, a licensed doctor, the flight attendant demanded to see her credentials. In the end, a white man also came forward and said he was a physician, and the flight attendant opted to take his help instead, telling Cross, “Thanks for your help, but he can help us, and he has his credentials.”
Cross said that she did not see the doctor show any credentials at all.
Now Delta is saying that showing credentials will no longer be necessary.
Immediately after the incident, the airline had put out a statement saying that it was policy to request medical credentials before allowing in-flight treatment, and that Cross did not show her credentials, but another passenger did.
Cross countered that argument, pointing out that doctors don't necessarily carry their hospital badges or have their licenses on hand.
“When situations like the one described by Dr. Cross arise, we have a responsibility to our employees and our customers to review the circumstances and our policies for opportunities to listen, learn and improve," Allison Ausband, senior vice president for In-Flight Service, said in a statement from the airline.
Ausband said that she was able to speak to Cross over the phone and invited the doctor to visit Delta to "discuss her experience face to face and apologize for how that experience made her feel."
When Cross went to Delta headquarters to meet with executives, she asked Wayne Riley, a mentor and the past president of the American College of Physicians, to accompany her. Riley told Delta that he had assisted passengers several times on Delta flights over the years and had never been asked to prove he was a doctor.
"As part of the review, Delta found that there is no legal or regulatory requirement upon the airline to view medical professional credentials," the statement continued. "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 said it also launched inclusion training three months ago for Delta leaders, and it announced that over the next year it will expand its diversity and inclusion training to front-line employees, including flight attendants.
“Our flight attendants were following standard procedure during this incident and the feedback Dr. Cross provided gave us a chance to make flying better,” said Ausband. “We remain grateful to the medical professionals who are willing to assist us in an emergency at 30,000 feet.”
Cross, for her part, said that she is satisfied with the changes that have been made in light of her bad experience.
"Although this was an unfortunate encounter, I am pleased with the changes that have been made to Delta's policies and training as a result,” she said. “It is reassuring to know that Delta has taken this matter very seriously and made the necessary adjustments to help physicians and other medical personnel, no matter who they may be, feel more comfortable offering medical assistance during in-flight emergencies."
Read more at the Washington Post.