Long-time United Airlines captain forced to resign when ‘offensive’ private remarks are made public

Captain Neil Swindells, who is the head of the United Airlines pilots’ union, resigned under pressure after he was accused of antisemitism, racism, and homophobia because of comments he made on a private social media channel for pilots.

The Chicago-based Boeing 787 captain has been with United Airlines for almost three decades. He was just voted in as the chair of the United Master Executive Council of the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), representing over 14,000 pilots on Dec. 19. Swindells was elected by a pilots’ union executive council that consists of 19 pilots. His comments were discovered by other pilots before he was narrowly elected, according to the Daily Mail.

Tuesday, he issued an apology following his remarks on the forum being made public. A number of pilots called for his resignation when the comments were first revealed, but Swindells had steadfastly refused to step down. After mounting pressure he caved on Wednesday announcing his resignation via a statement.

“There has been a significant negative response to things I posted on a pilot forum,” the captain stated in an email to the members of the 14,000-strong union on Wednesday.

“While many of these things have been taken completely out of context and publicly weaponized against me, I cannot ignore their existence and the damaging effect it has had on many of my fellow pilots. For that, I am truly sorry and apologize unreservedly,” he wrote. “It became clear my position was untenable and a negative distraction” to ongoing contract negotiations.

He further asserted in his email to pilots that the uproar over his comments “does not represent who I am as a person. … I have had a spotless record of service to the Association and the Company for over 27 years, but errors in judgment on a pilot forum may have damaged that reputation. I hope it has not.”

“Live and Let’s Fly,” an aviation blog, reported that Swindells wrote in September 2022, “Continuing to get your gay man on today, I see. Brava! And if my Aunt had a penis she’d be my Uncle!”

Last year he evidently responded to a post regarding United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby with “Continuing to get your gay man on today I see.”

“And I’m sure Emirates had Nothing To Do with the Emirates Male Captain being flanked by a United Female First Officer, either, right??? Every Single Optic was Designed with a nod to Emirates’ Dominance Of The Codeshare, while giving United their desired DEI [diversity, equity, and inclusion] money shot!!!” another post read on Sept. 16, two days after United Airlines announced a partnership with one-time rival Emirates at an event hosted at Washington Dulles International Airport.

It’s being claimed that other comments by the captain on the forum insulted different groups including Jewish people and women, according to CBS News. However, no examples were given supporting that charge.

Captain Joe DePete, who is the president of ALPA, told CBS News that its pilots “will always stand and fight for an inclusive aviation community because intolerance has no place in our union or profession.”

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