Luggage with LGBTQ+ pride colors against a light blue backdrop. Diversity, equity and inclusion

Narrow AIX diversity report excludes LGBTQ+ people and other groups


Diversity, equity and inclusion are crucial — yet all too often controversial — topics within the global aviation industry. Navigating these topics can be fraught with complexity, especially in the context of international differences of opinion on the role of specific groups of people within the workplace, and indeed within society. These are important discussions to have, and creating spaces in which those discussions are held in an inclusive and respectful way is vital.

In advance of the Aircraft Interiors Expo (AIX) in Hamburg, Reed Exhibitions (RX, part of RELX), the organisers, released a white-labelled report, Diversity Takes Off. 

While it contains some thought-provoking quotes within interviews of interest with industry role models, the most striking aspect of the report is who Reed has chosen to exclude from inclusion — especially compared with last year’s pre-AIX report by Reed, Diversity in Aviation [PDF].

This year’s report presents itself as comprehensive, noting that:

One of the primary barriers to addressing DEI in aviation is simply the vast scope of the topic. It permeates every aspect of the industry and encompasses a multitude of challenges. To navigate this complexity effectively, we aim to dissect DEI, in the aviation sector primarily through the lenses of employees and passengers.

The press messaging for the report promises “comprehensive and informed insights” and “a thorough overview of the challenges and opportunities surrounding inclusivity and accessibility in the industry”.

Yet its sections are far from thorough or comprehensive, with a very limited scope of diversity, and a paradoxically exclusionary perspective on inclusion. The report comprises only:

  • gender diversity
  • diverse workforce (which briefly discusses linguistic and cultural diversity)
  • physical accessibility
  • neurodiversity

These are all important topics to discuss, but there are glaring and alarming omissions of groups that face serious and complex issues within the aviation industry. These omissions are especially regrettable because there is substantial information available from governmental and non-governmental organisations in many countries outlining disadvantaged (and, in some cases, legally protected) groups to consider as part of diversity initiatives. 

As just one example, Reed, a UK company, should be familiar with the groups covered in the UK Equality Act 2010, which in addition to sex, race and disability includes age, gender identity and reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, religion and belief, and sexual orientation. Inherently, of course, discussion of diversity, equity and inclusion has progressed substantially since legislation two decades ago, so a meaningful list in 2024 will be wider than just those identified in 2010.

Omitting any mention of key groups of diverse people in a diversity report is a choice, one that is especially notable when it excludes people and groups who were included in previous years’ reports. As just one example, LGBTQ+ people and issues were discussed four times in last year’s Diversity in Aviation report, while there is zero mention of them in this year’s report. 

There are positives within this year’s report, however. The inclusion of neurodiversity is a good step forward, although it’s regrettable that the role of aviation in shaping accessibility improvements here is understated: the report says that “airlines and airports have also started to recognise the Sunflower Lanyard”, which allows passengers to self-identify as needing additional assistance as the result of a hidden disability. Yet this (excellent and praiseworthy) initiative was created by Gatwick Airport in 2016 in partnership with its Airport Passenger Advisory Group, including local and national charitable advocacy groups.

On balance, this report is more notable in who it excludes than in what it says about who it includes.

Runway Girl Network approached Reed, through its PR agency, for comment on these exclusions. 

A spokesperson provided a brief comment for attribution to unnamed “organisers of AIX”, stating: “Having focused on specific areas of diversity and inclusion in the past, this year we have focused on new areas — disability, female leadership, race, and ethnicity. We recognise that DE&I covers a vast array of topics, including LGBTQ+ inclusion, which all play a crucial role in creating a truly diverse and equitable industry. This ongoing series of reports will cover as many groups and areas as possible and give them equal focus, as we continue to shine a light on the positive work the aircraft interiors industry is doing to become more inclusive.”

Reed claims to have “focused on new areas — disability, female leadership, race, and ethnicity”, but these areas were all discussed alongside a wider range of inclusion in last year’s report. RGN raised this issue with Reed’s PR representatives, who said: “We’ve looked at new perspectives within those areas and new insights.”

There is also no mention within this year’s report that promises to “dissect DEI”, nor in the press materials accompanying it, of this being part of any ongoing series of reports, or even a footnote anywhere to acknowledge the exclusionary scope of the report, let alone to promise discussion of issues affecting excluded groups.

Responding to a followup question, a press officer said: “Regarding the next report, we will be using discussions that come out of PEC [the Passenger Experience Conference] and AIX to help determine the topics, with LGBTQ+ high on our agenda. We plan to release the next DE&I report before the end of the year.”

Overall, the report is a missed opportunity, especially for people from diverse backgrounds who don’t see themselves reflected within the four narrow categories that Reed’s report claims are so “thorough” and “comprehensive”.

But it’s also a missed opportunity for everyone: Reed has the chance to use its unique position as the organiser of one of the few key annual global aviation setpiece events to effect real change. 

Its new report, Diversity Takes Off, can be downloaded here.

Featured image credited to