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A Japan Airlines Boeing 787 at Boston (Photo: AirlineGeeks.com | Ian McMurty)

Japan Airlines Will Begin Using Gender-Neutral Phrases When Addressing Passengers

Japan Airlines has announced new terminology to be used when addressing passengers in airports and on aircraft, and “ladies and gentlemen” is no longer part of the script. Instead, beginning Oct. 1, the airline will use gender-friendly expressions, such as “attention all passengers” and “welcome, everybody.” The phrases are already gender-neutral when spoken in Japanese and will likely go unnoticed to most Japanese-speaking customers, but the changes will apply to other languages used by the airline.

Japan Airlines is the first Asian airline to use gender-inclusive terminology, and the move shows the company’s strive for diversity and gender equality. Airline publicist Yutaro Iwasaki said, “We have been promoting diversity in the community since 2014, and this is one of our actions taken to treat everyone (the same) regardless of gender.”

JAL also showed its support for gender equality in March 2020 when it allowed female flight attendants to wear pants instead of skirts on duty. Furthermore, Japan Airlines’ regional airline, JAL Express, hired the country’s first female commercial airline pilot. Ari Fuji was accepted into JAL’s pilot training program in 2019 after getting her pilot license in the United States.

The airline’s decision does not only show its support of gender equality but also of the LGBTQ+ community, which includes people who do not identify as female or male. While Japan is not necessarily hostile to LBGTQ+ people, it has few legal protections for same-sex couples, including protection in employment and housing.

Kazuya Kawaguchi, a professor of sociology at Hiroshima Shudo University, explained the significance of Japan Airlines’ new practice: “As one of the leading LGBT-friendly enterprises [in Japan]… [their] efforts should be appreciated and therefore will be and must be a significant step forward to the improvement… of other LGBT+ issues. I think that it is important for big companies to start good practice[s like this]… because other medium or small-sized companies tend to follow.”

JAL spokesperson Mark Morimoto told Reuters he wanted to “create a positive atmosphere and treat everyone with respect.” He continued, “We have committed to not discriminate based on gender… sexual orientation, gender identity or other personal attributes.”

In 2019, JAL also showed its support for the LBGTQ+ community by operating an “LGBT Ally Charter” that flew same-sex couples and their families from Tokyo International Airport to Okinawa’s Naha Airport to attend the city’s annual Pink Dot pride event. The flight supported the company’s philosophy that “gender equality is not only a fundamental human right, but a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world.”

While Japan Airlines is the first Asian airline to pick up this inclusive practice, it is not the first worldwide. In 2019, both Air Canada and easyJet started using gender-neutral phrases when addressing passengers, also replacing “ladies and gentlemen” with “everybody” and “all passengers.” Meanwhile, United Airlines showed its support for the LGBTQ+ community when it added non-binary gender options for bookings, becoming the first U.S. airline to do so.

Taylor Rains
Taylor Rains
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