Lufthansa is adopting a new gender-neutral language on all of its flights. The German airline plans to do away with its traditional onboard greeting: “Ladies and gentlemen, welcome on board.” Instead, it will use gender-neutral alternatives, like “dear guests” and a simple “welcome on board.” By Meena Thiruvengadam
“Diversity isn’t just an empty phrase but is a reality for Lufthansa. Starting now, we also want to express this attitude in our language,” Lufthansa spokeswoman Anja Stenger told German broadcaster, Deutsche Welle.
The change in policy applies to all airlines operated by Lufthansa, including Austrian Airlines, Swiss International Air Lines, Brussels Airlines, and Eurowings. Crew members will make decisions about how to address individual travellers onboard, Deutsche Welle reports.
The airline told CNN that it would not ban the use of words like sir or madam on board. “Our aim is to welcome everyone on board on an equal basis,” a Lufthansa representative told CNN Travel.
The European Commission and United Nations are among those who are embracing gender-neutral language, but there is division about the shift in Germany, where the local language genders many words. Unlike English, which uses gender-neutral nouns, German has specific words for male doctor and female doctor and male editor and female editor, for example, according to Deutsche Welle.
Supporters of gender-neutral language in Germany argue that gendered words exclude anyone who doesn’t identify as male or female and promotes sexist stereotypes. Opponents describe the movement toward general neutrality as an “assault” on the German language Deutsche Welle reports.
Alexandra Scheele, a social and gender economics researcher at Germany‘s Bielefeld University, described Lufthansa’s move as a step in the right direction. “This move works at a symbolic level,” she told Deutsche Welle. “It can be considered as a gender-sensitive step through which the gender binary is questioned.”
Airlines such as Japan’s JAL, European budget carrier EasyJet, and Air Canada have adopted similar policies on board their flights.