Neil Swindells, new head of United Airlines pilots’ union, apologizes for disparaging comments

Its new president united airlines division of the Airline Pilots Association apologized for the disparaging comments he made, but said in a statement that he would not resign his position.

Captain Neil Swindells made comments on a “private pilot forum” that were offensive to gays, women, Jews and many other ethnic groups.

In a statement of apology emailed to the pilots and obtained by CBS News, Swindell confirmed that he had made the statements, but said that “in hindsight,” 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.

Neil Swindells
Neil Swindells.

@UnitedPilots / Twitter

Swindells was was elected in his place as Master Chair of ALPA’s United Master Executive Council, which represents more than 14,000 United Airlines pilots, on Monday, December 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 board of 19 pilots.

The comments surfaced from other pilots before the election, which Swindells narrowly won.

CBS News obtained messages posted under Swindells’ name that were confirmed by other United Airlines pilots. CBS News reviewed about three dozen messages in total.

In September 2021, he appears to have responded to a post with “I keep bringing your gay today, I see.” On September 18, 2022, another reply included the phrase “And if my aunt had a penis, my uncle would.”

A post written by Neil Swindells shared with CBS News.

On September 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 EMIRATES ARSENE CAPTAIN flanked by a UNITED FEMALE FIRST OFFICER , correctly; ??” and called the event “shot by PPC!!!”

A post written by Neil Swindells shared with CBS News.

As part of the head of the board position, Swindells is guaranteed a seat on the United Airlines Board of Directors due to 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.

Capt. Joe DePete, president of ALPA, told CBS News that his pilots “will always stand up and fight for an inclusive aviation community because intolerance has no place in our union or our 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 is focused on the equal treatment and representation of all our members regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, race, religion or belief. Our aviation labor partners play an essential role in advancing LGBTQ+ rights and equality in aviation. We It is our hope that Union leadership across all airlines, representing our members and members of all affinity groups, is equally defined and respected by the leaders assigned to serve them,” Brian Gambino, President, told CBS News of the National Gay Pilots Association.

In his email, Swindells said he is looking to 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 in recent months and it is time to move forward together.”

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