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British Airways to drop 'ladies and gentlemen' announcements in drive to promote 'diversity'

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British Airways airliner
British Airways airliner

British Airways has advised pilots and cabin crew not to refer to passengers as “ladies and gentlemen” in onboard announcements as the carrier celebrates the “diversity and inclusion” of its customers.

The Telegraph has learned that the UK flag carrier has told staff to modify their language in recent weeks, bringing announcements in line with those now made in airports.

BA is not the first airline to enforce such changes. German rival Lufthansa moved to a gender-neutral salutation earlier this year. EasyJet and Air Canada made a similar change in 2019.

The decision is believed to have been partly driven by a change in BA customers. A greater proportion of families are travelling since Covid restrictions have been eased, with business travel slower to recover. The airline is understood to have been keen to make children feel included in announcements as well as respect new social norms.

BA has traditionally encouraged its pilots to bring their own personalities into onboard announcements - though they must reference a number of safety points.

The airline has not always managed to reflect the diversity of its customer base, however. Last November it was forced to apologise after backing England’s rugby union team on social media ahead of a crunch match against Wales.

BA tweet supporting England
BA tweet supporting England

Other large firms have gone further to promote diversity. For instance, Accenture, one of the Government’s top management consultants, has referred to staff as “allies” rather than colleagues to promote a more inclusive organisation.

Whether customers value so-called “woke” messaging, remains a matter of debate. Research published this summer on ways businesses could be “good corporate citizens” found that only 9pc of respondents thought the most important was to “speak out on important social issues that matter in Britain today”.

British advertising veteran Sir Martin Sorrell, the founder of WPP, the world’s largest advertising agency, said that things like traditional greetings were now less of a priority for airline customers.

“Whether that’s fortunate or unfortunate, it’s a sign of the times,” he said. “The important thing is not the announcements, it's the food, the Wi-Fi, the service, the speed of getting on the plane and getting off the plane.”

A spokesman for British Airways said: “We celebrate diversity and inclusion and we're committed to ensuring that all our customers feel welcome when travelling with us.”  

The policy change comes with BA hopeful that the Government’s recent relaxation of travel restrictions will deliver a boost to its operations, which have been hit hard by the pandemic.

Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, cut the UK's “red list” of countries where travel from requires quarantines to only seven nations last week. BA said holiday searches on its website had risen by 400pc in the hours that followed.

Meanwhile, Britons wishing to travel to the US are still waiting for the precise date next month when transatlantic routes will reopen. 

Officials have previously suggested "early November". But industry sources said that large airlines such as BA are expecting the borders to be reopened in the week commencing Nov 15. 

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