• Olivia Graham

The Importance of Following Through on Your Promise of Inclusion

Updated: Mar 18, 2020

Inclusion has become a buzzword of sorts that gets thrown around so often that its meaning can get lost in the weeds. One of my first managers shared a saying with me to help understand the concept that has always stuck with me. “Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance”. Having a seat at any professional table is just a start, feeling encouraged and empowered to use your voice is what matters. The social climate that we are currently living in is complicated to say the least. Companies need to make inclusion a mission that they live up to every day. It is hard though, to know exactly how best to make sure your company doesn’t fall flat when living the values, they set for themselves.

Recently I had an experience with a company that I had been a loyal customer to, that made me realize the importance of following through on your promise of inclusion. Without naming the company, I will say that this is an airline I had flown with for years and become even more loyal to once I started flying with an emotional support animal. Although mental health is only one area in which issues of discrimination are experienced, it is important to speak up when witnessing discrimination. Not everybody has a platform to speak up about discrimination they witness, but the more we talk about it the more can get done about it.

When flying with an emotional support animal there are requirements that need to be met and steps passengers need to follow. Because I work remotely, I have flown back and forth between New York and California fairly frequently, and I bring my corgi with me each time I travel. I have become very familiar and proficient with the process of clearing him to fly, which is why I was taken aback when I ran into the trouble I did. After submitting the necessary forms, I had successfully traveled with multiple times, I was informed only 2 hours before my flight that a word in one of his three forms made the reviewer question my need to fly with an ESA (emotional support animals). One word was deemed wrong by a subjective party and with less than 2 hours’ notice, I was told that my corgi was not allowed to fly with me. Which meant, I could not fly. ESAs are not a “nice to have”, they are a necessity.

Traveling can be stressful for anyone but having to spend endless hours on the phone fighting with customer service reps, just to receive a refund, was particularly distressing. I then still had to find another airline to fly home with, one that was genuinely inclusive.

By all accounts this airline functioned as it needed to. Passengers checked-in, boarded the plane, were offered drinks, and landed safely. The job of this airline was not fully done though. At Cheer Partners we have a saying, ‘Don’t just get it done, get it done right”. This job, although done, left a passenger feeling unsafe and on the verge of a panic attack. The company advertises that they are inclusive of all people and that they are supportive of those with mental health concerns.

When traveling with an ESA, I am signaling to a company that I need a little help. That is not always easy for someone to do. By not following through on their promise to support all of their passengers, this airline not only lost a loyal customer, but the business of those I chose to share the story with, and mostly important they lost trust. Companies operate on their reputation, so trust is paramount to maintaining healthy client relationships, as well as employee loyalty and motivation. They made me fight for rights they advertise to give, and I can only imagine that if they did that to me, what they do to other passengers and employees who aren’t prepared to fight. As a customer, I will never again willingly put myself in a situation where I feel so unsafe, scared, and defenseless. I am a strong young woman, and I will give my business to a company

that I feel not only talks the talk but walks the walk when it comes to supporting their customers through true inclusion.