James Fritzen Taylor, the Southwest Airlines pilot who made news for the homophobic cockpit screed that was caught on tape, has issued an general mea culpa for his 'offensive' and 'derogatory' remarks. Well, to be clear, he is sorry for being 'insensitive' and wants to move past things. His blanket apology, however, didn't specifically mention the Chicago-based crew who was the focus of his rage, but is a general statement to all employees:
To All Southwest Airlines Flight Attendants and all Employees:
Because of the impact of my comments, I wanted to communicate with you directly. Please accept my most sincere apology for the inappropriate and disrespectful remarks I made in March with an open microphone. I deeply regret the derogatory remarks I made and the hurt I have caused - I take full responsibility for those comments. It was truly insensitive of me and I would like all of you to know that from now on, I will show nothing but the utmost respect during my interactions with all employees. In addition, I would like to extend a special apology to all Flight Attendants, and especially those of Houston. I hope you will allow me to maintain a working relationship with all of you that will provide me the opportunity to extend an individual, personal apology to each one of you whenever we fly together. Please know that this event has forever changed me and I hope that others can learn from my mistake. I have learned a much-needed lesson to be more sensitive of others and I hope you will see me as a more tolerant and considerate person. I am proud to be employed by Southwest Airlines and I am committed to representing our Company, and its employees in the most professional way possible."
A Southwest spokeswoman said the pilot was punished with a suspension and she wasn't aware of the airline considering any additional reprimand. In addition, the Southwest flight attendants' union dropped plans to file a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission after Taylor apologized.
Let's not forget, Taylor didn't just say a few offensive, offhand things. He called the flight attendants a "continuous stream of gays and grannies and grandes" and "eleven f***ing over-the-top, f***ing a**-f***ing homosexuals."
I always hate 'apologies' that talk about the 'impact' of comments, not the action itself. So if no one had caught him and it hadn't made news, he wouldn't be sorry? Those type of 'oops I got caught' apologies always ring false to me, for obvious reasons.
I also think that a suspension simply wasn't enough for this pilot. There need to be real consequences for his actions not just as a personal punishment, but as also a statement about what is not acceptable at Southwest Airlines. This type of behavior creates an obviously hostile work environment for both the employees and for customers. As a former flight attendant, I can tell you that the last thing you want to deal with on top of angry passengers, delays, and medical emergencies is a homophobic pilot who has no problem insulting, belittling, and degrading his coworkers who are in charge of the safety of hundreds of passengers. The danger that the hostility in those comments represents is very real. They create a wall against the needed teamwork to properly communicate safety concerns that effect everyone on board the plane.
And let's be realistic, if his comments had targeted any other group besides gays, he most likely would have been tossed out faster than you can say "fasten your seatbelt." As someone who has some experience with anti-gay comments in airports, it seems that homophobia just doesn't rise to the same level in the eyes of many in the airline industry, despite the larger number of LGBT people in the business.
I do hope Taylor learned a lesson. I also hope that his 'learning' isn't over and that his coworkers, employers, and those in his life continue to push him to see it wasn't just the public 'impact' of his comments, but his actions themselves that need to be addressed.