A pilot for Southwest Airlines was briefly suspended, then reinstated, over an anti-gay rant accidentally broadcast to air traffic control.

The unnamed pilot was flying between Austin and San Diego in March when it is believed a button for the cockpit microphone was hit by mistake.

Air traffic control staff heard the pilot complaining to the first officer about “f**king homosexuals” and calling other staff members old, overweight and ugly.

In a recording obtained by the Houston Chronicle, the pilot is heard saying: “Well, but I had Tucson to Indy all four weeks. And, er, Chicago crews 11 out of 12. There’s 12 flight attendants – individuals – never the same flight attendant twice, 11 f**king over the top f**king ass f**king homosexuals and a granny.
“Eleven! I mean think of the odds of that. I thought I was in Chicago, which was party land. After that, it was just a continuous stream of gays and grannies and grandes. Well, I don’t give a f**k. I hate a hundred per cent of their asses.”
He was also heard referring to a gay flight attendant as a “fag”.
The incident was not reported until this week.

Southwest Airlines officials told the Houston Chronicle yesterday that the pilot had returned to duty after diversity training and apologising to Federal Aviation Administration officers.

A spokeswoman confirmed he was suspended without pay but would not say for how long. The first officer was not reprimanded.

Chuck Magill, vice president of flight operations, called the comments “offensive” but said the incident was an isolated one.

However, the union representing Southwest Airlines flight attendants said it was considering filing a charge with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission over the remarks.

In a statement given to Towleroad.com, the union said: “We are calling on Southwest Airlines to address this problem throughout our company, not as an isolated incident, but as a mandate that our workplace will be free from discrimination of all forms as a condition of continued employment.

“We have instructed our attorneys today to investigate the possibility of filing an EEOC charge with the federal government. We hope not to have to go that route, and instead, we are counting on Southwest Airlines to remedy this injustice.

“Bigotry in the workplace is bad business and unacceptable behaviour on the ground and at 30,000 feet.”