Passengers aboard a Southwest Airlines flight traveling from Houston to Albuquerque yesterday morning may have been expecting the flight crew to engage in their signature joking repartee while making the usual in-flight announcements about fastening seatbelts and the locations of the emergency exits.
What they likely didn’t expect was a slightly veiled insult towards President Biden coming from the pilot of the plane.
The phrase that the unnamed pilot used may have seemed innocuous or merely incongruous to those not tuned into the day-to-day cultural developments in MAGA world.
Signing off his inflight greeting to the passengers with the phrase “Let’s go, Brandon,” the Southwest pilot made the more politically aware passengers on the flight audibly gasp when they realized that the man in charge of their plane was indulging in a prohibited partisan commentary.
"On Friday morning on a Southwest flight from Houston to Albuquerque, the pilot signed off his greeting over the public address system with the phrase, to audible gasps from some passengers." https://t.co/0KlzkTWSch
— Jonathan Lemire (@JonLemire) October 30, 2021
For those of you who may not have heard about the latest craze infiltrating right-wing circles, the phrase “Let’s go, Brandon” is the latest deplorable code meant to be an uncensorable replacement for what they really would like to be able to say in polite company: “F@%k Joe Biden.”
The manner in which one phrase became the coded version of the profane epithet is unusually definitive, making it a lexicographer’s dream.
Here’s The Associated Press account of the origins of the “Let’s go, Brandon” substitution:
“It started at an Oct. 2 NASCAR race at the Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama. Brandon Brown, a 28-year-old driver, had won his first Xfinity Series and was being interviewed by an NBC Sports reporter. The crowd behind him was chanting something at first difficult to make out. The reporter suggested they were chanting “Let’s go, Brandon” to cheer the driver. But it became increasingly clear they were saying: “F—- Joe Biden.”
Since that sports broadcast, right-wing extremists have adopted the newscaster’s euphemism as their own, chanting the phrase at Biden’s public appearances and brandishing banners with “Let’s go, Brandon” emblazoned upon them as the president’s motorcade passed through their towns.
At Southwest Airlines, the phrase was also loudly chanted by employees of the airline at a demonstration protesting the company’s vaccine mandate for all employees, a requirement in response to the Biden administration’s policy that all employees of federal government contractors be fully vaccinated by December 8.
Apparently, the anti-vaccine — and anti-Biden — sentiment among Southwest’s pilots was not confined to just one flight. A recording of an open channel on an international radio frequency used in air navigation revealed several Southwest pilots repeating the coded insult.
This was recorded today on international frequency that pilots use. repeated all day by pilots! pic.twitter.com/WMeTtMh1hQ
— ❌Skibum (@heliski777) October 17, 2021
While a vaccine mandate for airline employees may sound like simple common sense for prospective passengers seeking to avoid contracting a deadly disease along with their complimentary snacks, the pushback from Southwest employees over protecting themselves and others from COVID may encourage those types of fliers to seek another airline, something of which Southwest Airlines executives are likely highly conscious.
While using “Let’s go, Brandon” instead of a profanity is certainly slightly less offensive than the alternative, its use without a doubt retains an air of juvenility that undermines the message that those who use it seek to impart.
Either way, airline pilots seeking to press a political agenda — rather than a public health agenda — on their flights deserve to lose their jobs or at least earn a substantial suspension without pay for their infraction of the airline’s policies.
A statement from Southwest responded to the incident on the Houston to Albuquerque flight, saying that the airline “takes pride in providing a welcoming, comfortable, and respectful environment” and that “behavior from any individual that is divisive or offensive is not condoned.”
Great! Now take the steps to prove you’re serious about enforcing sanctions for that obvious violation.
Original reporting by Colleen Long at The Associated Press.
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Vinnie Longobardo is a 35-year veteran of the TV, mobile & internet industries, specializing in start-ups and the international media business. His passions are politics, music and art.