British Airways is not the first nor the last, but surely the latest airline to drop the old “ladies and gentlemen” greeting on-board in favour of gender-neutral greetings.
We maybe needed a lockdown to allow many airlines to rethink their strict policies and open their views on social issues too, but apparently this change of announcement has been made in order to “reflect the diversity” of the always larger number of children travelling after lockdown and the increasing recognition of trans and non-binary customers flying onboard of their aircrafts.
Pilots and Cabin Crew members have been asked to use gender-neutral language when making their pre-flight announcement and welcome speeches. We might find that the old “ladies and gentlemen” could be replaced by “passengers” or “guests”.
As said at the beginning: British Airways is the latest airline that has made this important change of language, multiple international airlines have already adopted more inclusive language: EasyJet, Air Malta, Qantas, Japan Airlines, Delta, JetBlue, United and American Airlines have all already adopted a more gender-neutral language.
The Telegraph reported that Sir Martin Sorrell, the founder of WPP, the world’s largest advertising agency, said that things like traditional, binary greetings were not a priority for airline customers: “Whether that’s fortunate or unfortunate, it’s a sign of the times […] The important thing is not the announcements, it’s the food, the Wi-Fi, the service, the speed of getting on the plane and getting off the plane.”
Using gender-neutral pronouns and language makes people more positive towards women and LGBT+ people and less biased towards men, researches have previously shown.
For example, more than 3000 people took part in a research, which was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) in 2019, and results show that using more inclusive language “reduces the mental salience of males” and that the shift was associated with “people expressing less bias in favour of traditional gender roles and categories, as manifested in more positive attitudes toward women and LGBT individuals in public affairs”.
A spokesperson for British Airways told The Telegraph: “We celebrate diversity and inclusion and we’re committed to ensuring that all our customers feel welcome when travelling with us.”