Air Canada will soon embrace gender-neutral onboard announcements according to a recent internal memo sent to the airline’s flight attendants. Like many carriers, Air Canada has traditionally started many of its onboard and gate announcements with the opener “Ladies and gentlemen…”.
That, however, will soon be a thing of the past, with flight attendants urged to use neutral terms such as “Hello everyone” or “Good evening everyone,” in documents first seen by the French-language La Presse.
“The change will be reflected in the release of the Onboard Announcement Manual as part of our commitment to respect gender identity, diversity and inclusion. We will tell you when this change will be available and when to implement this change,” the memo from Air Canada tells its flight attendants and gate agents.
Air Canada has not yet publicly announced the policy change or indicated when the announcements will transition to gender-neutral terms.
Canada is one of the most progressive countries in the world in recognising, protecting and empowering people who don’t identify either as male or female – often referred to as “non-binary”. Gender identity and expression are protected characteristics under Canada’s criminal code and a crime motivated by someone’s gender identity could be considered a hate crime.
It is also illegal to discriminate against someone because of their gender identity and people who identify as non-binary are now able to choose a third gender ‘X’ option on identity documents such as passports.
The question of how to address people who don’t identify as either male or female has increasingly become a hot topic in the last few years. British pop star Sam Smith brought the debate to a new audience last month when they asked fans to start using the gender-neutral pronouns “they” and “them”.
“After a lifetime of being at war with my gender I’ve decided to embrace myself for who I am, inside and out,” the singer said at the time.
Yet, the question of how service industry workers initiate contact with customers without assuming their gender or using the wrong pronoun is a tricky challenge that still hasn’t been fully solved. It will be interesting to see how Air Canada proposes to deal with this issue.