Southwest Flight Attendants May Sue Airline Over Pilot’s Anti-Gay, Sexist Rant

Statement by Thom McDaniel Pres. of TWU Local 556 Representing Southwest Flight Attendants on Incident of Insults and Slurs Broadcast over ATC Frequencies Demeaning Flight Attendants

Flight attendants at Southwest Airlines are deeply disappointed and angered by the insensitive, and unprofessional comments demeaning flight attendants that were broadcast by a Southwest pilot over frequencies used by the FAA for air traffic control on March 25, 2011, revealed just yesterday.

Southwest’s flight attendants are highly respected by our customers for their skill, professionalism and customer service and expect that same respect from co-workers. We do important work and should not be demeaned by pilots, managers or anyone. We also are dismayed by the response from Southwest Airlines’ management. The official response from Southwest’s spokespeople and leaders has only added ‘insult to injury.’

Calling this broadcast a ‘private conversation’ cannot dismiss this incident. There is no place in our workplace for any conversation that demeans, insults and discriminates against other employees. Our Union is rooted in fighting for the rights and protections of working people, including forging the battles to end the prohibition of married women, pregnant women and men from serving as flight attendants and we will not go backward by accepting the behavior and speech of this pilot or any other employee.

We are calling on Southwest Airlines to address this problem throughout our company, not as an isolated incident, but as a mandate that our workplace will be free from discrimination of all forms as a condition of continued employment. We have instructed our attorneys today to investigate the possibility of filing an EEOC charge with the federal government. We hope not to have to go that route, and instead, we are counting on Southwest Airlines to remedy this injustice. Bigotry in the workplace is bad business and unacceptable behavior on the ground and at 30,000 feet.


  1. esurience says

    Why does the least-worst part of this pilot’s homophobic rant keep getting quoted? For those of you who haven’t listened to the audio, it’s much worse than the quoted section.

  2. PDX Guy says

    Just goes to show that companies that seem all shiny and nice on the outside, have major issues once you scratch the surface, much like Target.

  3. Beef and Fur says

    FO = First Officer…the copilot in a two person cockpit…or the second in command (and many times the copilot) after the captain in larger flight crews.

  4. AG says

    I really don’t understand why Southwest as a company should be responsible for a private (it turned out to be public accidentally) homophobic rant of one of its pilots. The union is pure scum mimicking the worst behavior of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton.

  5. Beef and Fur says

    This guy sounds like the type of oversexed horny straight guy who would stick his dick in a gay mouth on the crew layovers then use this macho charade to cover his tracks.

  6. paul r says

    Suing the airline is stupid. This was a pilot acting badly on his own. Demand stronger discipline, ask for better training, even get corporate contributions to LGBT organizations. But Southwest was not complicit in his spewing of bile. They have no case unless they can prove institutional support for such behavior, make it seems clear that this was the action of a single jackass.

    By all accounts Southwest is LGBT supportive. Why taint an entire firm over the behavior of a single jerk unless they can prove a pattern of this?

  7. Ray T says

    Disgusting it was and the pilot should be reprimanded no question. However there is no way The airline can police every conversation on every plain in the air. Seldom would I side with a company, but on this I do. When I first read the story I wondered if the co-pilot might have turned on the mike as a way of ending the rants of the Neanderthal pilot.

  8. Yuki says

    Ray, he also put hundreds of people in danger by tying up the frequency he was using. It may have only been for a few minutes, but according to the news, that was a frequency that multiple airports in Texas use to guide airplanes.

  9. Zlick says

    It’s not that the company is responsible for the pilot’s bad behavior, but that the slap on the wrist discipline was insufficient to stem the tide of discrimination in the workplace that Southwest Airlines has now been apprised of.

  10. JOhns says

    Well said Zlick.

    I’m not trusting Southwest with my life or my $$$ moving forward based on their inaction to the pilots rant.

  11. Tom says

    DO IT! DO IT! These guys and their companies need to learn that a little suspension and a little class doesn’t cut it. I’m tired of the slurs and then the “I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean it that way” afterwards. I say fire the jerk!

  12. CARIBTONY says

    TOTAL OVER-REACTION. Southwest had nothing to do with this guy’s rant and once it was brought to their attention they suspended the pilot and sent him to sensitivity training.

    And it was NOT a slap on the wrist – it was an appropriate response for the situation (I’m sure fines were also involved). Why is it that these days when someone makes a mistake publicly they must pay THE HIGHEST price possible?

    Just because the feelings of a few fats, femmes and grannies were hurt they should form a group and sully the reputation of the company that is their bread-and-butter?! Get a friggin’ life!


  13. Jay says

    For those wondering what the deal is here, the Captain , according the Federal Aviation Regulations, is the final authority in the air on running the airplane. He is in charge of all the crew. In that respect he is like a manager. He was in the workplace and in a position of authority. His language in the workplace exposed the company to liability under a number of different laws including those on sexual harassment. All that is required is creating a hostile work environment. Southwest had to act or they are exposing themselves to signifcant legal and $$ costs. If he was in his home or in a bar, etc with friends he could say anything he pleased…but in the cockpit in his official position is another matter.

  14. redball says

    Thanks, Beef! I’m usually good at figuring out acronyms from context but, alas, aviation is not my forte

  15. Paul R says

    It’s simple: Americans need to learn that lawsuits are not the solution to every problem, and that they entail enormous costs and often delay real solutions.

  16. PILOT2011 says

    What’s unfortunate, is that yes, the flight attendant union at SWA may be all up in arms, but what about us gay pilots who have to be locked up with these guys with their anti-gay slurs all the time? I had a picture from work with a former President ripped up one side and down the other on my company website and on a 3rd party aviation website just this week. The comments were so vile that my company removed my picture and the comments and replaced the picture of an airplane with a rainbow, which caused even more negative comments.

    Granted, SWA is one of the, if not the most progressive airlines to work for, most airlines, including mine, are not so open minded. Just because they say they are doing “sensitivity training,” doesn’t mean they are taking it seriously.

    This is a huge problem and may someday have a severe negative impact on the industry if people don’t get serious about treating others with respect. These comments do nothing but create a hostile environment to work.

    I hope that people realize that this isn’t between the macho pilots and the “gay” flight attendants, this goes much further. I never thought I’d have to go back into the closet just to be able to have the right to go to work and do my job to support myself and my family. It’s a crying shame!

  17. Mike says

    I don’t give a f–k I hate 100% of their asses… Yeah I think he has to go Southwest.

  18. Joseph says

    Thank you for sharing your story, Pilot2011. My father was a pilot for United for 21 years and my brother is currently an FO for Southwest. Both of them were/are surprisingly liberal; my brother, in particular, complains constantly of the captains (usually ex-Air Force) who parrot the conservative line and spew bigoted remarks.

  19. Esurnir says

    errrr… scratch whatever I said : I thought it was a cockpit recorder, he -really- said that over an ATC frequency? That’s just amazing.