Former Southwest Airlines Pilot Sentenced Over Lewd Act Inflight

A Southwest Airlines pilot has been sentenced to a year of unsupervised probation and has been ordered to pay a $5,000 fine due to a lewd act on a flight from Philadelphia to Florida on August 10th, 2020. After reaching cruising altitude, Michael Haak stood up and exposed his genitals to a co-pilot before watching porn on a laptop in the cockpit.

Southwest Airlines 737-800
Southwest conducted an investigation after learning of the act. Photo: Getty Images

Midflight exposure

The 60-year old retired pilot left Southwest after 27 years at the end of August last year. He was charged in April with intentionally committing a “lewd, indecent or obscene act in a public place.” This misdemeanor can lead to a penalty of a maximum of 90 days in jail.

During a hearing on Friday, the judge shared that Haak’s actions had a traumatic impact on the co-pilot. Moreover, it was added that the activity could have impacted the safety of those on board.

During the remote hearing, Haak responded by stating the following, as reported by the Associated Press.

“It started as a consensual prank between me and the other pilot. I never imagined it would turn into this in a thousand years.”

Southwest Airlines Finds Five Planes In Its 737 Fleet In Need Of Repair
The sentenced pilot no longer works for Southwest. Photo: Getty Images.

Inappropriate behavior

Federal prosecutors highlight that Haak had not met the first officer before this flight. The Associated Press shares the following from a statement shared by the prosecutors:

“As the plane continued its flight, Haak further engaged in inappropriate conduct in the cockpit, as the first officer continued to perform her duties as an assigned aircrew member.

Stay informed: Sign up for our daily and weekly aviation news digests.

Boeing 737 landing
The judge was concerned about the wider impact of the actions. Photo: Getty Images

Southwest’s stance

Following nearly three decades of service with Southwest, Haak retired with several accolades and letters from the company. Notably, CEO Gary Kelly wrote to him on his final day.

Nonetheless, a Southwest spokesperson has since shared that it “does not tolerate behavior of this nature.” Ultimately, the airline only found out about this incident after Haak voluntarily left. As a result, it launched an investigation and ceased any benefit payments to him.

Overall, it’s understandable that Southwest would be determined to avoid such incidents from occurring across its services. In 2019, it was revealed that two pilots of the carrier were accused of monitoring a hidden camera in an aircraft restroom. It was claimed that the pair live-streamed the footage on an iPad in the cockpit.

This weekend, it was announced that the airline is postponing its plans to resume the sale of alcohol on flights after an increase in unruly passengers on board its aircraft.

The operator was planning to restart alcohol sales on flights this summer. However, there has been a series of rowdy incidents over the last year. So, the company feels that in the interest of safety, it’s better to delay the resumption.

Altogether, the airline is keen for its flights to be operated smoothly without any unexpected incidents on board. Undoubtedly, management would have been surprised to find out about this behavior on the August 10th flight.

What are your thoughts about this incident? Let us know what you think of the situation in the comment section.