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Southwest Pilot Says Sorry, Union Drops Complaint

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DALLAS (AP) - The Southwest Airlines pilot who insulted gays and older workers in an open-mike rant has apologized.

The 12-year veteran of the Dallas-based airline, James Taylor of Argyle, Texas, was caught on an open cockpit mike using slurs and profanity to complain that attendants were mostly gay or too old or too heavy for him to date. The comments went out over an air-traffic control frequency.

Taylor said in an email that Southwest distributed this week to employees that the comments were “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.”

Taylor said the incident had “forever changed me and I hope that others can learn from my mistake.”

CBS 11 obtained a copy of the letter:

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.

With My Sincere Regards,
Captain James Taylor

The Southwest flight attendants’ union said it dropped plans to file a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission after Taylor apologized. But union president Thom McDaniel also said the incident wasn’t isolated and shouldn’t be swept under the rug.

“We hope we never have to deal with this type of incident again,” McDaniel said.

Southwest, which hasn’t formally identified the pilot but confirmed that the email was legitimate, said the pilot was suspended and ordered to go through diversity training after the March incident. He has been reinstated but for health reasons hasn’t worked since his comments surfaced last week.

Southwest spokeswoman Linda Rutherford said the pilot was punished in April and she wasn’t aware of the airline considering any additional reprimand.

Taylor previously apologized to air-traffic controllers and to Southwest employees in Houston — he had singled out flight attendants there for particular derision, calling them ugly except for “maybe a handful of cute chicks” — but had not apologized more broadly until the email this week.

(©2011 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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