Southwest's Flight Attendants Are Furious Over Pilot's Comments and Carrier's Response

Perhaps you've heard: Back on March 25, a still-unidentified Southwest Airlines pilot was somewhere over the great state of Texas when he decided to use his open mike to review the Love Field-based carrier's flight attendants. Said the fellow, all he could find on his route were "11 fucking over-the top fucking ass-fucking homosexuals and a granny." Whoops. The recording, which goes on and on and on, was made public yesterday by a Houston TV station. Southwest has since disciplined the pilot and issued an apology, in which Southwest Airlines veep of flight operations Chuck Magill brands the chitchat "offensive" and "inconsistent" with the airline's expectations of its employees.

That's not good enough for Southwest's flight attendants: A statement from Thom McDaniel, president of TWU Local 556, which reps the carriers flight attendants, just landed in the Unfair Park in-box. In it, the union suggests that this isn't over, not by a long shot. They want the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to investigate; they want the feds involved. "Bigotry in the workplace is bad business and unacceptable behavior on the ground and at 30,000 feet," says the release.

But the release, which follows, condemns Southwest for "calling this broadcast a 'private conversation.'" Magill, however, never uses that phrase in his video statement. The FAA does, sort of, in its statement, referring to the broadcast as a "personal conversation."

Statement by Thom McDaniel Pres. of TWU Local 556

Representing Southwest Flight Attendants


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.

TWU Local 556 represents 9,400 flight attendants at Southwest Airlines. The union is affiliated with the Transport Workers Union of America (TWU)/AFL-CIO.

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky