Japan Airlines Retires Gender-Specific Language in On-Board Announcements

by Kevin Schattenkirk

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday September 29, 2020

In a step toward greater inclusivity, Japan Airlines has announced that it will cease the use of "ladies and gentlemen" during in-flight announcements, The New York Times reports.

The airline will instead use gender-neutral language such as "everyone" and "all passengers" in announcements and onboard greetings. Japan Airlines spokesperson Mark Morimoto said to the Times in an email, "we aspire to be a company where we can create a positive atmosphere and treat everyone, including our customers, with respect."

The change in verbiage will only take place in English, as gender-specific greetings are not used in Japanese discourse. Critics say this is only a symbolic gesture, as Japan remains somewhat conservative — the government has failed to recognize same-sex marriage even though public support for it has increased in recent years. Furthermore, many LGBTQ people fear coming out in Japan because of heteronormative societal expectations. In 2019, 13 gay couples filed the first lawsuits against the government claiming their rights to marry had been infringed upon.

Though Air Canada and Easy Jet are among the first to retire gender specific language, Japan Airlines was motivated to do so by listening to its customers.

Kevin Schattenkirk is an ethnomusicologist and pop music aficionado.