Q. What's the Difference Between a Flight Attendant and a Ferrari?

A. Not everyone has been in a Ferrari. (1960s-esque flight-attendants-are-for-bangin' humor brought to you courtesy of Southwest Airlines.)
Publish date:
June 29, 2011
sexism, travel, homophobia, southwest airlines, M

I have a vague hate-on for Southwest Airlines, in a general way. Oh, I know people who love them for their wicked cheap fares and ... their wicked cheap fares, I guess.

Luckily for me, I live in a city thoroughly serviced by my own favorite cheap airline, JetBlue. Yes, I am totally endorsing JetBlue as my personal carrier of choice. Given my existing disdain for Southwest, I’m including the following story as another nail in their gross Sports-Illustrated-swimsuit-issue-themed coffin. (Oh, you didn’t know Southwest had a Sports-Illustrated-swimsuit-issue-themed plane? Surprise!)

Last week, a Southwest pilot’s misogynist and homophobic tirade found its way onto YouTube, where jerks aplenty can now post comments about how awesome it is. This pilot, a delightful specimen of manhood, apparently did not know his microphone was live and transmitting his woman-hating gay-bashing spew to many other pilots and air traffic controllers.

So he spent a few minutes describing how difficult his manly manly life is -- even as the other people on the channel kept asking him to shut up -- and expressing his disgust at the dearth of bangable chicks on his recent routes. He complains that all the flight attendants have been either “gays” or “grannies”.

To be precise: ““Eleven f**king over the top f**king, ass-f**king homosexuals and a granny... Eleven. I mean, think of the odds of that... After that, i was just a continuous stream of gays and grannies and grandes…Well I don’t give a f**k. I hate 100 percent of their asses.”


Also, I’m presuming “grandes” is a derogatory term for fat ladies? I actually kind of dig that. GRANDE. Like a BURRITO.

If you needed a reason to hate a dude today, you can listen to this dude’s unedited potty-mouthed shenanigans via the magic of YouTube. For the love of god, do not read the comments.

This is not an issue specific to Southwest by any means, rather this kind of grotesque misogyny happens across numerous professional fields, though it may be especially bad in the boys’ club that is commercial airline pilot-dom.

So what did Southwest do, when all this came to light? The pilot was “disciplined” (I imagine this means someone yelled at him “DUDE CHECK YOUR MIC”), briefly suspended and then made to attend diversity training before he could return to work.

I’ve been to a few diversity trainings in my time, so I am dubious that this experience has actually changed this pilot in any way. But hey, the good news is this guy is back flying planes, in charge of the lives of hundreds of people -- over half of whom he hates, by his own admission. It’d be a shame to see a guy with such a cavalier attitude about the people he works with (and for) put out of a job.

Given broader context, it’s not altogether surprising that this pilot felt like it was totally cool to bend the ear of everyone around with his tale of woe. Ain’t no ladies listening, am I right?

According to 2007 data collected by the Federal Aviation Authority, women pilots represent 6 percent of commercial airline pilots. That’s right. Six. Percent. I almost can’t get my head around that number.

I am hardly a wide-eyed innocent on the issue of institutionalized sexism, and even I shake my head and marvel at it. How can this be? But is it any wonder, if this 1960s-esque flight-attendants-are-for-bangin' attitude persists?

A female commercial airline pilot lives in my building. She is the first female commercial airline pilot I have ever met, and I admit to a morbid fascination with her, as in all my many years of flying -- and I do a fair amount of flying, 10 to 12 flights per year -- I have never heard a woman’s voice come crackling over the plane’s PA system, identifying herself as the pilot. And I have always wondered why.

Every flight, I think, “This could be the one!” But it never happens. There is nothing intrinsically and biologically male about piloting a plane, is there? You don’t need a penis to steer.

And so I am curious about the lady pilot, a fact I have never been good at hiding. Once, in the elevator, making small talk, my husband cheerfully asked her what her job was like. Her response? “It’s lonely.”

It was a matter-of-fact statement, but just saying it aloud seemed to tire her out. She was clearly on her way home from the airport, nondescript carry-on suitcase in tow, dark uniform blazer folded over her arm. She offered no further explanation, but let the admission hang uncomfortably in the air between us.

“It’s lonely” is not a reaction that invites further inquiry; at least not of a stranger. I assumed she meant that it was difficult to maintain friendships and other relationships outside of work, maybe, what with all the traveling and the long shifts. I didn’t ask. I didn’t want to pry, and I was glad when the elevator doors opened and I could escape.

Now I wonder if this is what she meant.