British Airways Suspends Pilots Over Racist & Pornographic Emails

Filed Under: British Airways

It’s being reported that British Airways has suspended five of their pilots over email messages. All of these allegations involve pilots who also work (or worked) part-time for BALPA (British Airline Pilots Association), which is British Airways’ pilot union.

As one pilot described the situation, ‘being a union rep is a very alpha-male, testosterone-driven, locker-room-type role’. Love those people!

This all came to the surface after a 46 year old Boeing 777 captain, Manish Patel, quit as a BALPA rep last year and filed an employment tribunal against the union. Here’s what allegedly happened:

He alleges that he endured racist comments, including being called ‘P*** lad’ and ‘chai wallah’, as well as inappropriate jokes that he also worked as a taxi driver or ran a corner shop.

It is understood that he admits sending offensive emails himself, but says he did so only to fit in. Last night Balpa said his claim is ‘strenuously denied and will be robustly defended’.

However, this newspaper has seen six messages sent by Captain Brendan O’Neal, a senior union official, to Captain Patel in which the ‘N-word’ is used.

In one, sent in November 2012 as union reps organized a Christmas pub lunch, Captain O’Neal asked: ‘What food you want n****?’

In another, from September 2012, he asked Captain Patel: ‘U on skype n****?’ In July 2012, Captain O’Neal, who trains other BA pilots, asks: ‘Why you selling the car n****?’

Goodness gracious. I’m not sure whether that’s worse, or this, though:

Further emails reveal how Russell Williams, a BA training captain, sent a pornographic image of a man having sex with a chicken to five other union reps in March 2015 along with the caption: ‘It’s Friday. S*** some birds this weekend.’

Obviously these are just some bad apples (I hope), though in my head I always think of British Airways pilots as being the most professional and proper in the industry, and obviously this doesn’t fit in with that perception.

  1. Absolutely appalling that people still think these sorts of comments are ‘jokes’ and ‘banter’.

    I hope that the ordinary BA pilot members of BALPA throw these people out of their BALPA posts and elect some new reps.

    This hasn’t made an appearance on flyer talk yet but I’ll get the popcorn ready.

  2. They may well be professional but clearly not proper. You can be very professional but a complete scumbag, and you can be very proper and hopelessly inept. The two are not correlated.

  3. Are we not aware that men speak differently in internal groups of mates than they do with their families/partners?

    I don’t condone the language, and certainly wouldn’t say this with my colleagues, but it seems like this is one alpha male being a “bro” with his fellow “bros”.

    I want to make very clear that men say mean and awful things all the time! There’s no indication this was sent to anyone who did not consent to being part of this type of communication. Sure – they didn’t have to use work email but this is not out of the ordinary…

    Source: I’m an alpha male and work in finance. We have group chats where we say things we would NEVER say to others in the office or to our families/colleagues.

  4. What’s next?
    Canceling people’s bank account, rent agreement and ability to use roads if the outrage police and professional victims on twitter being offended on behalf of other people deems them ______ist, _____phobic or anti_____.

    Do you really think that this guy is the bigot you’re supposed to worry about?
    Is the concept of using the n-word as a term of endearment really that foreign to you?
    Is there a road to redemption for people who have been driven outside the city walls by the police of outrage and virtue?

    This man’s name is now out there and he is branded as the worst of the worst, essentially unhirable for any airline, he and his family are in big trouble now, just because of some coarse language used in private chats…

  5. @DangerousDave, what you are describing is called toxic masculinity and by your own admission you are certainly one of the perpetrators and part of the problem. As a gay man, I have been on the receiving end of this garbage for most of my life, with emails addressed to me as “Madame” and “Ms.”, and jokes about whether I swallow and take it up the backside. I never consented to this and it is not OK. I am really glad that these pigs have been caught out, and if their lives have been ruined, that’s how karma works. If I were you, I would stop whining about this, go scrub your emails and clean up your act and get some therapy for your warped and twisted idea of masculinity. The game is up buddy, and yes, you very well could be next. Everything you worked for in your life can be taken away from you because of your pathetic sexist attitudes. And there is a word for that: Justice.

  6. It’s amazing how many people on here are defending calling someone the n word.

    Can’t wait till you’re all outed too.

  7. Posts like this just keep the cycle of faux-outrage and hypocritical virtue signaling going. It’s more and more apparent to me, even just from reading these comments, that every thoughtcrime merits nothing short of a scorched-earth, vengeful, life-destroying response. If that’s justice, you can keep it.

    A world without forgiveness is a pretty damn miserable place to live.

  8. @[email protected]
    Whoever addressed an email to you with “Madame” or asked if you swallow is undeniably a piece of s**t, and deserves to be punished for improper and unwanted invasion into your personal life and preferences. I think very very few people in this day and age will deny that, but there’s always a couple of those on either side of any argument, they don’t count nor decide anything.

    However, you just very openly claimed that DangerousDave falls into that same category simply because within his private circle he might be making jokes outsiders might find inappropriate and some might find offensive. You also suggested that HE can’t have that private circle the way he wants to have it because YOU think it’s “toxic masculinity”. So, essentially – you made an improper and unwanted invasion into his personal life and preferences. You have the right to be in a relationship with whoever you want – he doesn’t deny that. He has a right to have whichever opinion he wants and make whatever jokes he sees appropriate with his close pals as long as he or those pals don’t deny you a job based on your sexuality and call you a f*g to your face – you don’t have a right to deny that to him. Otherwise, there seems to be an issue with “toxic gayness” and you calling a man a pig based on your subjective opinion of his private matters. If I were you, I would stop whining about this, go scrub your comments and clean up your act and get some therapy for your warped and twisted idea of gayness.

    I like Delta’s long-haul products both business and economy, and think you have to be absolutely insane to pick United unless its Polaris. I can say whatever I want, both private and public about United as long as I don’t misstate facts, call people r*tards for picking United, or discriminate on them based on their personal choice.

    Let me know if you find out man, I’ve got a couple things I’d like to discuss as well.

  9. The pilot that reported this obviously has an ulterior motive.

    As a racial minority, if someone called me the ‘N’ word (regardless if it was a ‘chummy/jokey’ way or not) my first reaction would be to say ‘please don’t call me that – it’s racist and I don’t like it’.

    Yet – this pilot said he actually ENGAGED in the same kind of racist emails (in other words saying ‘its ok for you to use that kind of language). And then months later decided he will report it.


    He was absolutely complicit and likely added fuel to the fire.

  10. @Syd, if someone like that is talking on their work emails in this fashion, you can be guaranteed that this affects how they treat fellow employees and staff who are gay or a person of colour. It is idiotic of you to claim that someone who is using this language “in private”, isn’t acting on those prejudices. I am not an idiot and I don’t believe that for one second. Also, work emails are not private at all. These are not “thought crimes”. They have real impacts on people like me. It is unforgivable behaviour and your are crazy if you think me or any other gay person should forgive it or tolerate it any more. We won’t and that is something all you “good old boys” need to adjust to.

  11. @Debit stop generalising all republicans.

    I’m a republican/libertarian, yet I still think that racism is wrong- the vast majority of republicans think rasicm is wrong.

    This is an airline blog, it isn’t a blog to rant about your political beliefs and call everyone else on the other side complete scum.
    It doesn’t put you and other ‘Republican Haters’ in the best light either.

  12. These pilots should just say they’re so, so sorry and play patty cake with some black thought leaders…it seems to be working for the governor of Virginia!

  13. goodness. obvious that the guy was stupid to text the crap. It doesn’t automatically make him a racist. You would be surprised nicknames people have for their friends. I am sure many of you Politically Correct hypocrites either use them and laugh them off because its between friends. I had a black co-worker who use to address me in the morning “what’s up my N$$$$”. I wasn’t offended by it, and he wasn’t either. Its not something I would say to someone and I never called him that. although I would use an occasional “nothing my cracka” as a reply. Before you start hating, it was banter between two adults, it wasn’t meant for public consumption and it was long before texting was possible. People say and do stupid things.

  14. Snarky posting “MAGA” simply shows you have nothing intelligent to add to this conversation as it has nothing to do with this story. And I do agree I am offended about reading about posts about everyone else being offended. Tired of this crap. Lets stick to posts that are in line with why most of us follow this forum.

  15. This was since 2012!!!!

    Obviously Captain Patel is abusing the race card.

    Probably got fired for some other reason then decides to go nuclear to cash out before being booted from the industry for good.

    When you can’t win something and you are not Caucasian, go to the media with the race card. It always works.

    N.B. I don’t think N**** even applies to (my generalization of) “Patel”. What next, Donald Trump is being offended by the N-word???

  16. @[email protected]
    lmao jeez, you gotta ease up on those Soviet-esque slogans a bit if you’re trying to have a productive conversation, although it’s starting to look like that’s not your intention.

    Look, as I said to you previously, if you show me someone who didn’t give you a job and said “we don’t need f*gs here”, or denied you service, or did any real action that put you at a disadvantage because of your sexuality – I’ll go there with you and stand right by you until we make sure the guy is penalized and justice is served. And if we have fun and get along in the process, I’ll happily have a drink with you after that and starts sending you sincere and heartwarming wishes every birthday cause you’re a great guy.

    But that’s about it. No one owes you anything just because you’re gay, and no one is going to abandon their constitutional freedom of speech and expression and tolerate your intolerance(which you’ve so proudly and ironically stated in the abovementioned slogans).

    Also, just as a friendly advice – next time someone calls you something you don’t like – can you try calling him something he wouldn’t like back, turn around, forget about it and go on with your day and life? I’d imagine that would be ones preferred course of action if their intention is indeed to go on with their day and get stuff done, rather than be a professional victim.

  17. Seriously, how can anyone think this is okay?

    It’s not just joking. It affects the work environment. You don’t think assignments or promotions or references or any kind of career advancement wouldn’t depend on being a “team player” and condoning this sort of crap? You think that someone who would take offense should endure it or partake in it in order to survive?

    No. This is not acceptable behavior. This is not “kidding around.” And it absolutely should not be tolerated.

  18. @Syd Freedom of speech doesn’t mean freedom of consequence. The fact that you are suggesting that you should be allowed to call a coworker all sorts of demeaning slurs and not get into any trouble tells me exactly what kind of person you are. Not wanting to be called a f**got, or a n***** at work should not be considered unreasonable.

  19. @ENZO

    If you’re still identifying as a republican you can be readily dismissed as a climate-denying, sexist traitor, like the low-wattage Elmer Fudd with the bad haircut who moved his lips while reading the FOX News crawl between MSP and DEN on my UA flight this morning.

    But at least you’re standing up to racism. /s

  20. Lucky I really appreciate what you do here in terms of giving us great ideas for travel and points. With that noted I have to say I think this is a real miss on your part to join the crowd in the media that aims to stir the pot and divide the sides. From the comments I am seeing articles like this do nothing positive.

  21. WOW, the indignation is astonishing! Lots of people trash talk in private groups. Ever been in the military? Ever been on a sports team? Nahh, some of you probably have not. Some of you come across as pampered and pretentious. While I may not like some of the words written in those emails, the reality is those emails were not for my eyes, nor was I in that group. Maybe Lucky should focus more on travel and points and less on sensationalism locker room talk :-p

  22. SullyofDoha
    Spot on. I am sure most of the haters of this pilot have said similar horrible things amongst their group of like minded hypocrites.

  23. Using a reference to the Daily Mail, a paper so trashy that even most of the far right people it is intended in the UK now steer clear of it, is a little below your usual standards, Lucky.

  24. I’m a gay man.

    I could care less what anyone thinks of me, what they say about me in private, if they make jokes about me, approve of everything I do, or call me names. I refuse to play victim, or let anyone convince me that I might be one, and I live a happier life for it. I didn’t always feel this way, but at some point in my life, I grew a pair.

    I’m also an AvGeek.

    I’m disappointed at the direction this site has taken. When I first found it, it seemed 100% devoted to what’s truly relevant to those who love flying commercial, especially those who want to experience the best of it, even if it would ordinarily be beyond their means.

    Now I can’t remember the last time I visited OMAT without finding an article that evokes the level of vitriol that so often fills these comment sections. Lucky, I don’t suspect you and your staff deliberately look for ways to pit your readers against each other, but it’s happening as an unintended consequence.

    Politicians – from all sides – are trying to divide us enough as it is; why let it happen here?

    I’ve spent months waffling about whether I should quit following OMAT. I stop for awhile, only to eventually return again, hoping to find more and more reviews and recommendations on flying in style, only to be disappointed by an increasing number of articles focused on hotbed issues.

    I’m not in a position to judge how well OMAT knows its audience. Perhaps the audience is changing, and OMAT has changed to meet its expectations. If that’s the case, then good on you, and best wishes for continued success.

    I’m just not your audience anymore.


  25. @SullyofDoha, toxic masculinity was explained by Derek earlier. This was not behaviour by a group of friends but by a group of colleagues. While of course behaviour like this is also wrong in a group of friends, it is unacceptable when colleagues do it. Toxic masculinity ensures that the culture in a company remains straight, white, male and makes it difficult for gays, females and people of color to make a career.

  26. On that Russell Williams e-mail, it got me thinking… What’s the difference between romantic and kinky?

    Romantic is when you use a feather during ‘an act of love’.
    Kinky is when you use the whole chicken.

    Ciao !

  27. @DerekGlass

    I am truly sorry that you’ve been subjected to improper remarks regarding your sexuality. For the record I think that sexuality is about important in 2019 as hair color is – I would not tolerate (even in our internal group chat) any homophobic comments whatsoever. It’s 2019!

    Just to be very clear: men sometimes swear and use inappropriate language as a term of endearment with their consenting friends. No one was calling anyone “the n word” here that didn’t consent.

  28. @Syd-you have officially been schooled. Your stupid comment to @SpeedBird shows you had nothing left so you went ignorant. Similar to your admission of the comments you make during work hours to your colleagues. Time to grow up.

  29. @Ray
    You need to reread Syd’s first comment. To me @SpeedBird is the one making assumptions and is clearly not addressing the core points of @Syd’s opinion

  30. Really no “blackface” parties? Oh maybe I confuse the white pilots with the white Virginia governor and politicians.
    Its all got to go, got to behave properly if you want to have a good job, good pay and benefits.
    Toe the line. Straighten up or ship out.

  31. @DangerousDave, that Pakistani pilot did not “consent” to being called the n-word. When you are a pilot, and you land your “dream job” with a major full service carrier like British Airways, there is enormous pressure to fit in, not make waves, and appear to be a “team player”.

    When you then discover you’re working with a bunch of sick and twisted Alpha male a**holes who call you the n-word, you may find yourself tolerating this for as long as is bearable, but there is no way in hell he consented to it. You’ve got a very screwed up idea about consent.

    Yet another reason to go get some psychological help with your retrograde attitudes about what means to be a “man” — before HR finds all those emails you and you’re buddies have been sending around.

  32. @Archer, I’m sorry we’ve burst your bright and cheery bubble about aviation. But the working conditions of the people who make all those wonderful flights happen is very relevant to a blog like OMAAT. The sad thing is that a gay man like you would rather put your noise-cancelling headphones on and sip your pre-departure champagne and just ignore it all.

    That kind of complacency is not how you and every other gay person earned the rights and freedoms we enjoy today. Thank god there were many more courageous and brave people in the LGBTQ community than you.

  33. Ok upon further re-reading of this article, it does appear that the pilot subjected a fellow captain to racial abuse without that captain’s consent. This changes things; I had been under the impression that this was just a couple of lads bantering in an internal message thread.

    I denounce racism in the strongest possible terms and take back some of my earlier comments.

    Although it is expected that men will engage in ‘locker room talk’ privately it is 100% not cool to expose any non-consenting participants to this potty talk.

  34. Fun story the mid-eighties:
    Indian man sitting in the first class cabin on SAS. After the meal service, he placed his tray in the aisle. The purser asks him if he can kindly remove it so she can pass with the cart. He responds: “where I come from, people like you don’t have an opinion”. Her reply: “where I come from, people like you drive taxis”.

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