British Airways Suspends 5 Pilots Over Questionable Emails

British Airways has reportedly suspended 5 pilots. The suspensions come as a B777 captain came forward to BALPA having received racist emails. Alarmingly, some of the emails also contained pornographic images according to various sources. The allegations appear to be based around a group of BALPA representatives.

BALPA is the British Airline Pilots Association. The man who received these racist emails, Manish Patel, has brought an employment tribunal case against BALPA. Arguably the most shocking part of this whole story is who sent the messages. One of the pilots responsible for the racist emails was a Captain Brendan O’Neal. Mr O’Neal was the Executive President of BALPA.

British Airways Suspends Pilots
British Airways has reportedly suspended 5 pilots. Photo: Nick Morrish/British Airways

Racist Emails

Manish Patel brought a case against BALPA to an employment tribunal. The reason for this was that Mr Patel received a number of racist emails from union colleagues. According to The Mail, Mr Patel was repeatedly sent emails by the accused pilots where he was called the N-word. In one such incident, Mr O’Neal was organising a Christmas lunch for the union representatives. While planning the meal, he sent Mr Patel an email which said: “What food you want n****?”.

Another Pilot, Russel Williams, is alleged to have sent indecent images to union representatives via email. An image of a man and a chicken in a compromising position was sent. It was accompanied by the caption “It’s Friday. S*** some birds this weekend.”

British Airways Suspends Pilots
The 5 pilots are accused of sending racist emails to other Union representatives.

Do Unions Have A Lad Culture?

Pilots are usually seen as a trusted figure in the community. As such, a pilot is one person who can countersign a photo on a British passport application. This shouldn’t be a surprise as a pilot has huge amounts of responsibility when ferrying passengers around the globe. This is why it is so shocking that senior pilots have been accused of such behaviour.

Pilots work for about 45 hours a month as BALPA union representatives. They are supposed to represent the whole pilot base at the union. However, it appears as though those trusted members have taken advantage of their position. The Daily Mail states that one pilot told them: “Being a union rep is a very alpha-male, testosterone-driven, locker-room-type role.”

British Airways Suspends Pilots
British Airways is supporting the pilot at the receiving end of the emails. Photo: Nick Morrish/British Airways

BALPA Response

Simple Flying contacted BALPA regarding the accusations against Union Reps. Brian Strutton, BALPA General Secretary, said: “We accept and regret that in the past there have been cases of inappropriate behaviours and emails passing among a small number of BALPA representatives. We are committed to ensuring a good, modern day work environment within the organisation. We have taken and will continue to take appropriate steps to maintain standards and enforce our values, to include education and, if necessary, disciplinary action.”

Mr Strutton went on to add: “Brendan O’Neal has decided to step down from his position as Executive President of BALPA with immediate effect.” A British Airways representative added to BALPA’s comments: We are appalled to learn of this behaviour, which does not reflect the values of our company. We are standing by our colleague to give him our support in every way possible, and urgently looking into this matter.”