The new chairman of thechapter of the Air Line Pilots Association has apologized for derogatory comments he made, but said in a statement that he will not be stepping down from his position.
Captain Neil Swindells made comments in a “private pilot forum” that were insulting towards gay people, women, Jewish people and several other ethnic groups.
In an apology statement emailed to pilots and obtained by CBS News, Swindell confirmed that he had made the statements but said he “in retrospect,” he wished he “had expressed (himself) differently.”
“Those words do not represent what I stand for and I apologize to anyone I offended,” Swindells said. Swindells did not respond to emails sent by CBS News seeking comment.
Swindells was elected to his position as the Master Chair of the United Master Executive Council of ALPA, which represents more than 14,000 United Airlines pilots, on Monday, Dec. 19. His predecessor, Mike Hamilton, was elected to the position in 2022 and held the seat for less than a year, stepping down due to a family issue. Swindells was elected by a pilots’ union executive council that consists of 19 pilots.
The comments were surfaced by other pilots before the election, which Swindells narrowly won.
CBS News was provided messages posted under Swindells’ name that were confirmed by other United Airlines pilots. CBS News reviewed about three dozen messages in all.
In September 2021, he appears to have responded to a post with “Continuing to get your gay man on today I see.” On Sept. 18, 2022, another response included the phrase “And if my Aunt had a penis she’d be my Uncle.”
On Sept. 16, after an event where United Airlines and Emirates Airlines announced an alliance, 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!!!”
As part of his position leading the council, Swindells is guaranteed a seat on the United Airlines Board of Directors because of the union’s collective bargaining agreement. United Airlines declined to comment on Swindell’s statements. United Airlines is still negotiating a contract with the pilots who fly its more than 700 planes.
Captain Joe DePete, 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.”
“Under our democratic structure, United pilots elect their leaders and it’s up to them to decide who they want at the helm,” DePete said.
“NGPA’s advocacy work focuses on the equal treatment and representation of all of our members regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, race, religion, or creed. Our partners in airline labor play an essential role in promoting LGBTQ+ rights and equality in aviation. We hope that the Union leadership across airlines, representing our members and members of all affinity groups, are equally defined and respected by the leaders entrusted to serve them,” Brian Gambino, President of the National Gay Pilots Association, told CBS News.
In his email, Swindells said he was looking towards the future.
“I intend to represent all pilots and am dedicated to bringing you an industry leading contract,” he said. “We have experienced significant internal turmoil over recent months and it is time for all of us to move forward together.”