The new leader of United Airlines’ pilot union is resigning after disparaging comments came to light

Hours after CBS News reported its new president united airlines chapter of the Airline Pilots Association had apologized for the derogatory comments he did, but said he would not resign, captain Neil Swindells resigned from the position that also gave him a seat on the airline’s board.

“There has been a significant negative response to things I posted on a pilot forum,” Swindells wrote in an email to more than 14,000 United pilots late Wednesday night. “While many of these things have been taken completely out of context and publicly weaponized against me, I cannot ignore their existence and the devastating effect it has had on many of my fellow pilots. For this, I am truly sorry and deeply apologetic. .”

Swindells had posted comments on this “private pilot forum” that were offensive to homosexuals, women, Jews and many other ethnic groups.

Neil Swindells
Neil Swindells.

@UnitedPilots / Twitter

United’s long-serving pilot 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, held the position for less than a year before stepping down due to a family matter. 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.

For example, in September 2021, he appears to have responded to a post with the following: “I keep bringing your gay today, I see.”

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!!!”

online posting
A post written by Neil Swindells shared with CBS News.

Sources tell CBS News that Swindells’ comments raised concerns among many rank-and-file pilots, despite his apology earlier this week.

“It became clear that my position was untenable and a negative distraction” in the ongoing contract negotiations, he wrote.

In the message to pilots, Swindells said the controversy over his posts “doesn’t represent who I am as a person. A pilot forum might have damaged that reputation. I hope it hasn’t.”

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