Houston, we have a problem.
A Southwest Airlines pilot was suspended for a March 25 incident in which he was heard over an open microphone on an air traffic control channel making anti-gay comments, dropping f-bombs, and disparaging his co-workers as "grannies" and "grandes."
The pilot also talked about how he has been relocated to the Houston base, "which is easily one of the ugliest bases. I mean it's all these [expletive] old dudes and grannies and there's like maybe a handful of cute chicks."
The audio of the incident, first reported by Houston's KPRC-TV, goes on for almost two minutes before air traffic controllers are able to cut off the Southwest pilot's microphone. At one point, a SkyWest pilot who heard the rant quickly chimed in that "it was not us."
Southwest said the pilot was reprimanded and suspended without pay for a lengthy time. He also underwent diversity education, the Dallas-based carrier said.
"The actions of this pilot are without question inconsistent with the professional behavior and overall respect that we require from our employees," Southwest said in a statement. "The pilot is remorseful and has formally apologized to both FAA controllers and his base leadership."
The carrier said it will not identify the pilot, who has worked for Southwest for more than a dozen years. He is not under investigation for any other performance issues, and the conversation occurred when personal discussions are permissible in the cockpit, Southwest said.
Southwest's flight attendants union is considering filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and said it is dismayed by the response from Southwest management.
"Calling this broadcast a 'private conversation' cannot dismiss this incident," said Thom McDaniel, president of TWU Local 556, which represents 9,400 flight attendants at Southwest.
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