It’s time to say farewell to gendered greetings on Air Canada flights.
The airline announced it will stop using "ladies and gentlemen" or "mesdames et messieurs" in boarding announcements. Instead, the company will amend the scripted greetings with gender neutral words like "everybody" or "tout le monde".
In an email response to CTV, the company said the move was an attempt to modernize the airline by removing specific references to gender.
"We work hard to make sure all employees feel like valued members of the Air Canada family, while ensuring our customers are comfortable and respected when they choose to travel with us,” they wrote.
Ann Travers, a professor of sociology at Simon Fraser University who uses they/their/them pronouns, says it’s a positive development for a large corporation like Air Canada.
“It recognizes that there are more appropriate ways to address groups of people that don’t involve rigid and antiquated gender descriptions,” they told Yahoo Canada.
Travers points out that the terms "ladies” and “gentlemen" have a history dating back to racial segregation. The professor says that the term specifically referred to middle and upper class white men and women.
“When segregated bathrooms first came on the scene in the United States, you had bathrooms for ladies, gentlemen and coloured people” they say. “Those were the words that were used. It’s a gross history to the notion of ‘ladies’. We’re used to those terms, but in reality, they’re not really necessary.”
Across Canada, public facilities are taking steps to make their spaces more inclusive and gender neutral. In Vancouver, the Parks Board has reorganized community facilities by adding open areas with private spaces so that community members aren’t limited to gendered change rooms. Some Toronto libraries and universities, like the University of Toronto and Ryerson, have introduced gender neutral bathrooms. These changes are likely to have stemmed from public feedback.
“Many corporations and public institutions are going through equity, diversity and inclusion measures and are examining their cultures and processes in terms of who feels included and who doesn’t,” says Travers.
While Air Canada’s change in greeting is being considered a positive move, many say there’s still a long way to go until gender neutrality is the norm. One area in particular is government issued ID, which often includes a gender classification. Travers points out that people who are trans or non-bianary often face difficulties when dealing with officials like police or border guards, who might not understand when the person doesn’t “match” the sex on their ID.
“There used to be racial categories and then it was realized that it was creating and reinforcing assumptions about racial differences,” they add.