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Southwest disciplines pilot for rant during flight

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Southwest apologizes for pilot's remark
  • NEW: Flight attendants' union decries comments
  • This was isolated incident, airline executive says
  • Pilot made disparaging comments about several types of people
  • Pilot is reinstated after discipline, diversity training

(CNN) -- Southwest Airlines disciplined a pilot whose profanity-laced rant about flight attendants was heard by other airplane crews and controllers, officials said Wednesday.

The unidentified pilot bashed flight attendants as a "continuous stream of gays and grannies and grandes," according to a transcript of the March 25 flight over central Texas. The pilot on the Austin to San Diego flight was referring to the sexual orientation, age and attractiveness of flight attendants.

The pilot, speaking to a fellow crew member, used a microphone that became stuck and was heard by others for more than two minutes, the Federal Aviation Administration said.

The pilot was reprimanded, suspended without pay for a period and received diversity education before being reinstated, according to Southwest. The pilot, whom the airline termed remorseful, apologized to FAA controllers and base leadership. Flight attendants and other pilots also got an apology from leaders, the airline said.

"We've built our company's reputation on the Golden Rule: treating others as you would like to be treated, with concern, care and respect," the airline said. "The actions of this pilot are, without question, inconsistent with the professional behavior and overall respect that we require from our employees."

Pilot attacks gays, obese in rant
The RidicuList: Southwest Airlines

An air traffic controller in Houston alerted airplanes on the frequency to check for a stuck microphone, said FAA spokesman Lynn Lunsford.

"OK, someone has a stuck mic and telling us about all their endeavors and we don't need to hear that," the controller said, according to the transcript.

The Southwest pilot's inadvertent use of the frequency prevented the controller and other flight crews from using that signal during the conversation, raising a potential safety issue.

Personal conversations are allowed on flights when they are above 10,000 feet, the FAA said. "Nevertheless, the FAA expects a higher level of professionalism from flight crews, regardless of the circumstances," the FAA said.

The agency sent the audio recording of the incident to Southwest for action.

Chuck Magill, Southwest's vice president for flight operations, said he was saddened by what he called an isolated incident.

"He knows what he did cannot happen again," Magill said in a video statement, which included an apology to customers, employees and other pilots in the industry.

TWU Local 556, which says it represents 9,400 flight attendants at Southwest Airlines, said the attendants are "deeply disappointed and angered by the insensitive and unprofessional comments."

"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," union leader Thom McDaniel said in a statement.