On December 20, 2022, United Airlines Pilots congratulated airline captain Neil Swindells, its newly elected union leader, representing over 14,000 of the airline’s pilots.
Soon after, online comments made previously by the Chicago-based Boeing 787 pilot surfaced, amidst outcry and clamor to remove Swindells from his new position.
CBS News reported that Swindell’s comments in a private pilot’s forum were ‘insulting towards gay people, women, Jewish people and several other ethnic groups’.
For instance, in September 2021, Swindells appears to have responded to a post with: ‘Continuing to get your gay man on today I see’.
When United Airlines and Emirates announced a codeshare alliance in mid-September 2022, Swindells wrote, ‘And, I’m sure EMIRATES had NOTHING TO DO with the EMIRATES MALE CAPTAIN being flanked by a UNITED FEMALE FIRST OFFICER, either, right???” and called the event a “DEI money shot!!!’
Swindells also replied to another post with the phrase, ‘And if my Aunt had a penis she’d be my Uncle.
On December 21, 2022, just one day after he was elected to head United’s pilot union, Swindells issued an apology that was emailed to pilots.
‘I wish that I had expressed myself differently,” Swindells said in the letter, as seen by CBS News. “Those words do not represent what I stand for and I apologize to anyone I offended.”
Only hours after the apology email was sent, though, Swindells sent another message, this time announcing that he would immediately resign as MEC chairman and as a member of the airline’s board of directors.
“It is time for me to go back to the line and do what I have loved doing for over 27 years, which is flying with the best, most professional pilots in the aviation industry,” Swindells wrote.
“There has been a significant negative response to things I posted on a pilot forum. 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,” the letter further stated, according to Forbes.