A Southwest Airlines pilot acted unprofessionally in stating “Let’s go Brandon” over the PA system on his flight. But how should he be punished? And how can Southwest Airlines prevent copycats which serve to make already tense flights even more divisive?
Southwest Pilot Utters “Let’s Go Brandon” Statement
Onboard a flight from Houston to Albuquerque, a Southwest pilot ended his flight announcement with, “Let’s go Brandon.” An Associated Press reporter, who happened to be writing a story on that same phrase, was onboard.
The utterance (thought to be on the same flight, but not confirmed) was posted on TikTok:
“We’re heading east at about seven or eight miles an hour. Clear visibility, mostly clear skies, 77 degrees. Thanks for coming out and flying with Southwest Airlines, welcome aboard and remember, let’s go Brandon.”
History Of “Let’s Go Brandon”
If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you’re not alone–I also was not aware that “Let’s go Brandon” has become a new way of saying “F*** Joe Biden.” Still confused? You have to go back to October 2, 2021 to NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Talladega Superspeedway. Brandon Brown won. An NBC reporter named Kelli Stavas interviewed him after.
As the interview progressed, Stavas thought the crowd was chanting “Let’s go Brandon! Let’s go Brandon!” But they were really chanting, “F*** Joe Biden! F*** Joe Biden!” Immediately, “Let’s go Brandon” became an internet meme and new cottage industry of “Let’s go Brandon” t-shirts, posters, cups, and other trinkets sprang up. The phrase also became a rallying cry among the Trump crowd, including apparently some Southwest pilots.
Southwest Apologizes, Promises Investigation
Now Southwest has apologized and says it is launching an internal investigation. On Twitter, it categorically denied that the views expressed by this pilot reflected the views of Southwest Airlines.
We know many of you have heard about recent statements that may have been made on a Southwest flight, and we wanted you to hear directly from us. pic.twitter.com/CYh0MugYxd
— Southwest Airlines (@SouthwestAir) October 31, 2021
Southwest does not condone Employees sharing their personal political opinions while on the job serving our Customers, and one Employee’s individual perspective should not be interpreted as the viewpoint of Southwest and its collective 54,000 Employees.
But according to comments on TikTok and Twitter, this flight was not an isolated incident and many Southwest Airlines pilots who are angry about the COVID-19 vaccine mandate have been using this phrase, particularly in their goodbye message.
What Should Happen To Southwest Pilot?
The pilot probably did not think he would create a public relations storm by uttering a statement that is harmless when devoid of context.
But context matters. And setting matters.
“Let’s go Brandon” may be used to mask a far more crude statement, but it is intended to convey that crude statement and it is wholly inappropriate for a captive audience on airplane.
Pilots are free to engage in political activism outside of work, but when in uniform and in the front office, they need to shut up and fly the plane. That includes uttering statements that are inherently political or have become politicized.
As tragic as it is that some statements are political, in our divisive, politcally-charged climate, airplanes need to be a refuge from politics. It’s bad enough that masks and drunkenness contribute to trouble onboard. The last thing we need is for pilots or flight attendants to express political opinions, including on their lapel pins. Airlines: take note.
Removing politics from flying does neuter employees or take away any rights. Again, it’s all about the time and place. Onboard an airplane is not the right place.
As for this pilot, a warning should do. All pilots at Southwest should be warned that such statements are not permitted and that if there is any doubt, just don’t say it. Going forward, however, pilots (and all employees) who knowingly offer political commentary on the job should be terminated. They have now been warned. I’m reminded of the metaphor, “If you give an inch, they take a mile…”
The pilot has become an instant yeoman hero on the fringe right for “standing up” to Joe Biden and the vaccine mandate. He shouldn’t be. Imagine if the pilot was openly insulting Trump. Instead, we should expect that our pilots are competent, professional, and have discernment, which is decidedly not on display when making political quips over the PA system.
How do you think Southwest should handle the “Let’s go Brandon” pilot(s)?
image: Southwest Airlines