As the Spanish language defaults to the masculine when referring to people or objects collectively – unless all of them are female – the English ‘ladies and gentlemen’ address is only directed at males.
The literal translation for Señores is ‘Misters’, meaning the usual announcement refers to ‘Mr Passengers’ but is understood also to include Señoras, or ‘Mrs’, in the plural.
Spanish women do not change their title of address from ‘Miss’ to ‘Mrs’, or Señorita to Señora, upon marriage – this is dictated more by age, although Señorita is thought to be a diminutive and considered rather patronising, so rarely used.
In this way, and given that Spanish women do not change their surnames when they marry, it is impossible to ascertain from their full names including titles whether or not they are wedded.
Some public services, when addressing people collectively, have begun to open with ‘Señores y Señoras’, even though the former, ‘Señores’, on its own, works for both genders, in order to ‘neutralise’ the language in sex terms.
Airports across Spain are likely to simply address passengers over the loudspeaker with Atención… rather than using any terms that may refer to gender.
Gender-free language has been proposed at government level with debates on introducing a third, neutral term altogether – whilst ‘son’ is Hijo and ‘daughter’ is hija, but a person’s children are known as their Hijos unless they are all female, it has been suggested that the term hijes be introduced so as not to appear to ‘discriminate’ in favour of males.
A similar proposal has been made for hermano (‘brother’), and hermana (‘sister’), which becomes hermanos in the plural unless all the siblings are female, to become hermanes instead.
As yet, this has not taken off and has been met with opposition from numerous quarters, particularly the more right-wing politicians and their supporters.