Pilot Kicks Sexist Off Her Plane

Imagine you’re a certified commercial pilot, and you’re among the 6.6 percent of them who happen to be women. You’ve passed all the same training as your male colleagues and proven that you can fly a plane just as well. One day, as you prepare for takeoff, you hear a male passenger say that he refuses to be flown by a woman. Do you just ignore him? Do you turn around and give a reasoned explanation of why your gender plays no role in your ability to fly a plane? Or do you kick him off the flight?

A Trip Airlines pilot went with the third option on Tuesday, May 22, after a male passenger stood up and shouted, “Someone should have told me the captain was a woman. I’m not flying with a female at the controls.” The unidentified passenger was ejected from the plane and met by police, who escorted him out of Belo Horizonte airport. The Brazilian airline later backed its pilot’s decision with a statement that it wouldn’t tolerate disparaging remarks about any of 1,400 women working there.

While the airline’s support of its women employees is encouraging, it’s hard not to be discouraged by the incident that prompted it. Despite increasing opportunities for women pilots, they’re still among the few professionals who face the outmoded belief that women physiologically “just can’t do” the job–even though gender-blind, controlled studies have found that women pilots make as few or fewer mistakes than their male counterparts.

Just last month, Joe Cowley, a sportswriter for the Chicago-Sun Times, tweeted from a plane: “Chick pilot. Should I be OK with that or am I just a sexist caveman?” He proceeded to get into a Twitter flame war with New York sportswriter Sloane Martin, in which he tweeted, “The chick pilot did good…Even though she had to come back and ask for directions twice.” Fortunately, like the man on the Brazilian flight, Cowley got his just deserts: His Twitter account disappeared later that day, and the Sun Times has reportedly put him on probation. And, in both this case and the Trip Airlines case, the web was filled with responses condemning the sexist behavior.

In other words, no surprise here–sexism is still alive and well whether you’re on the ground or in the air. But as more women take to the skies and more feminists speak out on the Internet, there’s hope that such beliefs will die an overdue death. Until then, it’s nice to have the example of this pilot and Trip Airlines. There are times when there’s no enlightening people and you just have to kick them off the plane.

Photo by Flickr user Kossy under license from Creative Commons 2.0


  1. Mikaylah says:

    Ridiculous that this is still an issue. She is a pilot. Like the article said, she did all the training and took all the tests any male pilot would take. Why should her being a woman be an indicator as to her ability to do her job? Again, it is ridiculous.

  2. Dr. Jan F. says:

    So glad she kicked his butt off the plane.

    I raced motocross in the 70’s in backwards Florida. I beat a lot of guys who never let me forget my gender. When they gave me more crap, I simply went faster to beat more of them. I loved seeing egg on their faces. I raced motorcycles for years and held the #1 plate much to the chagrin of many misogynists.

  3. Lynette Bondarchuk says:

    Bravo, Trip Airlines!

  4. Jonathan Steinert says:

    Thank you for writing this article. I am glad to hear that someone has decided to kick a passenger off their plane for being a bigot.

    I do respectfully disagree with only one line of the article however;

    “But as more women take to the skies and more feminists speak out on the Internet…”

    I don’t believe feminists are the only people who make a difference in this world against sexism. I have to assume there are more people like me, both women and men, who appreciate the work of and respect those who are in any profession. This is regardless of gender and all other possible differences.

    For example, I show this by expressing confidence in my pilot and other flight crew on an airplane to other passengers in unhappy situations of any kind. Similarly I also thank the entire flight crew and pilot for their work.

    Regardless of my opinion though, I hope the world becomes a less hostile place for women.

    Again, thank you for your writing.


    • Hello,

      I wonder if you know what the term ‘feminist’ means… If you believe in Gender equality, regardless of whether you male or female, trans or cis, gay or straight, tall or short- then you’re a feminist… And by the content of your post you definitely are 🙂

      Sshhhhh! It’s ok, Feminism isn’t a dirty word 😀


    • “I have to assume there are more people like me, both women and men, who appreciate the work of and respect those who are in any profession. This is regardless of gender and all other possible differences.”

      That IS being a feminist, according to the classic definition: “belief that women are people.”

  5. Right on Sister!… A little ride to 5000 feet and boot his caveman ass off the plane…don’t want to ride in my plane? try walking..once you hit the ground of course!

  6. Good on her for standing up for herself and it’s awesome the airline stood behind her. I wonder if American airliners would have stood behind a pilot did the same or thrown her under the wings.

    • How many women have the American air lines hired? And how much less are they paying them for the same job and the same training as the men? Americans will celebrate Amelia Earhart till the end of time, but will reject a woman flying an ordinary commercial flight. Glorified exceptions may be accepted; for routine service, the old boys’ club still shrieks NOT ON MY FLIGHT.

  7. Luke Sutton says:

    More like this.

    And bravo to the airline for backing up the pilot.

  8. Bravo to Trip Airlines indeed.

    I wonder how that idiot reacts when he happens to know that the male pilot of some other flight is homosexual. Or a muslim.Or a supporter of communism.

  9. I agree! Awesome Trip Airlines! Brazil already has a female president after all, and shes doing a pretty great job!

  10. 6.6%, that’s it?? Wow. With attitudes like those of the two asshats mentioned in the article, I guess that is no surprise.

  11. Here’s hoping the idiot didn’t get a refund.

  12. Jeez, those guys might not have heard of most of http://airandspace.si.edu/explore-and-learn/topics/women/ (go ladies!), but surely Amy Johnson & Amelia Earhart are familiar enough to prove we can do it.

    Bravo, Trip Airlines![2]

  13. RedRoseQueen1 says:

    I think she (the pilot) should have waited until she reached 30,000 feet altitude and THEN thrown him off! Just sayin’…. ;D

  14. Odd. I’ve flown a bunch. I’ve been in an “official crash” with a male pilot…blew 10 tires upon landing and had to sit in the plane…at DFW until they could bring buses out to the runway, etc. I’ve never been in a crash with a female pilot, but I’ve seen bunches of them over the years.

    Just sayin’.

  15. This article is pretty funny to me. I’m a helicopter pilot in the army, also a chic, and Ive been pleasantly surprised at the utter LACK of sexism within the army ranks. There are still a few jackasses out there, but I’m of the mind that if you dazzle them with ability and competence–most of them will eventually eat their words. Good for her for kicking him off the plane, I’d make the sucker walk as well. 🙂

  16. While I agree that this guy is a moron and a pig, I don’t think the punishment fits the crime. When did it become okay to call the police because you disagree with someone’s opinion? Would anyone be applauding this kind of power trip if a pilot threw a passenger off the plane because the pilot didn’t like Jews or Democrats. Just because someone’s flying the plane shouldn’t give them the right to arbitrarily decide who flies and who doesn’t. Even if the guy is a sexist jerk.

    • It’s not about what he thinks; it’s about what he did. Anyone that irrational is a threat to the entire plane, and it’s SOP for the police to escort people from the airport when they’ve been kicked off a plane.

    • This incident took place in Brazil; they’re not as self centered and pompous as some people here in the US can be.

    • Tara M. says:

      The PIC (Pilot in Command) is ultimately responsible for EVERYTHING that occurs on the flight. She was absolutely right to remove a disruptive passenger from the flight. People’s lives are at stake, and she is the PIC. The PIC can remove somebody for any reason — this one was completely valid. It IS like yelling “fire” in a crowded theater.

  17. Lindsey says:

    Sadly, people will always find someone who is “inferior,” whether it’s because of race, gender, religion, sexuality, or whatever else. It’d be nice if they could go away, but with people like these guys around, it will never end. Glad to hear Joe Cowley was put on probation, especially since he is a representative for his newspaper. Sexism aside, his grammar is terrible for a writer. “The chick pilot did GOOD?” Then again, poor grammar is pretty normal for Chicago Sun-Times.

  18. Great article overall… But just a heads up, the expression is “just deserts”, not “just desserts”. “Just desserts” is a play-on-words commonly used on restaurant menus, but the expression “just deserts” has nothing to do with food; it uses the archaic word “deserts”, meaning something which was deserved.

  19. I noticed how you used “male” as an adjective multiple times (male pilot, male passenger) but used “woman” as an adjective instead of “female” when discussing the female pilot. Did you do this subconsciously or are you just overtly sexist?

    • Dustin Kunz says:

      ad hominem?

      Also, your question is logically flawed: you’re “arguing from an excluded middle.”

      Some possible middles:
      -she knows her audience
      -“men” makes an awkward adjective, while “women” has been an accepted adjective by men and women for several generations. “Women folk.” Colloquially, “girl talk.” It’s unusual, but technically accepted by some dictionaries. It is also possible she intended it as an appositive noun.
      -she’s a self-proclaimed feminist, and believes that “woman” is a powerful term
      -She specifically is referring to GENDER, and not SEX.
      -She’s influenced by the rhetoric. see “Grammar Girl’s” notation in “woman versus female” about “male nurse” and “woman candidate.” We use those in emphatic ways to make a rhetorical point. It makes sense that it affects the way we write.

      Also, feminists don’t have the burden of equality. That’s the dominant party or the oppressors obligation.

  20. drue hartwell says:

    I’ve been in construction for almost 30 years and when I walk onto a jobsite, the men still question whether or not I know how to use a measuring tape. It’s infuriating. At my last job, which I walked away from, the owner would come on the sites with me to double check my measurements. I called him out on it and he admitted that is why he came with me. I’m better at math, and more technical than most men in the same profession, and for those men that are not sexist, they have no problem referring work to me and praise me for my knowledge. Wish more men could put on the blinders.

    • Dan Foresman says:

      Hey Drue
      sorry to hear that, I’m a General Contractor in Northern Ca and I think it’s actually hurting the trades right now that they’re not more gender-blended, the way things work is word of mouth and most residential jobs are so individually oriented, don’t know how many times I find myself working for women and thinking how cool it would be to have some in our crew, if only for the way that variety sparks rapport… anyway, if you have any ideas about how to get this imbalance corrected, I’m all ears, I don’t honestly know how many women are wishing to get into this kind of career…

  21. Couldn’t she have waited until they were at altitude?

  22. I couldn’t agree more with almost everything including having the rude passenger escorted off the plane at 30,000 feet. As much of a feminist as I am and have always been and often “activistly” so – people may express their opinions in our democracy and it is not up to Twitter to act as the thought police! It is up to the rest of us to either not follow the bigot or voice our objections.

    The idiot’s twitter account should be restored ASAP with all our blessings.

  23. As a commercial pilot and former flight instructor, I’d like to correct one misconception stated in the article: it states that women pilots are “still among the few professionals who face the outmoded belief that women physiologically ‘just can’t do’ the job…” That’s not entirely true. When I was training for my CFI certificate, I was told that I flew “like a girl”. My instructor went on to tell me that this was a great compliment – that generally, females had a better feel for the airplane and showed more precise control over it. Even back in the ’90s we knew who made good pilots, and who didn’t. The female pilots were always well respected, at least in the aviation community.

  24. Lincoln Madison says:

    Well, she gave the passenger exactly what he demanded: “I’m not flying with a female at the controls!” Okay, but we’re not changing the pilot, so I guess you’re not flying….

  25. Dustin Kunz says:

    Mr. Steinert: You would likely fall into the philosophy of third-wave feminism, as Sam said. My guess is that you’re old enough to remember first and second wave feminism, in which case the definition of “feminist” is very different, and you probably wouldn’t quality by the modes of thought of that day.

    To the Author: I agree with most of what you’ve written… except that the two studies you’ve posted disagree with your statement.

    The second shows that women are 7% MORE likely to make a “pilot error,” and 33% more likely to have the crash caused by a “handling” mistake. Men tend to make less handling errors, but we apparently consider storms and -darkness- to be something like the Luftwaffe – something to be outsmarted, outgunned, defeated.

    The first (ideas.repec.org) shows that women are MORE likely to crash than men IF you do not adjust for age and experience. What the assclown should have said was “I refuse to be flown around by someone who is so young and inexperienced due mostly to the fact that my gender managed to keep them from becoming pilots for so long.” Let me rephrase what the abstract puts poorly and incorrectly: male pilots are statistically safer than female pilots, but not because they’re better pilots, but because there are more experienced males than females (for now). These are factors the second study failed to take into consideration.

    In 40 to 50 years when the experience levels balance out and women make FEWER mistakes, which I believe they will, it’s going to be embarrassing for a lot of men. Experience can correct the errors the female pilots studied made. The seemingly testosterone-fueled decisions made by the male pilots with something to prove (to themselves or others) will require much more to be tempered (fear, humility, concern for others, etc.).

  26. That guy who stood and yelled is an idiot who deserved to be thrown off…but the writer who got put on probation?! Ridiculous…it was a harmless joke, Twitter backlash? Sure, no problem. Losing Job? dumb dumb dumb..ironically the First Amendment and the Freedom of Speech doesn’t mean jack anymore *sigh*…

    • Get a grip there, Sparky. He wasn’t thrown in prison for his sexist crack; the First Amendment is just fine.

  27. FYI_PIlots tend to be unionized (at least in the USA) and as a result, wages are set by contract, regardless of gender. What will vary is the payscale for a particular piece of equipment, (jets tend to pay better than prop planes, for example) or whether the pilot flies as a captain or first officer (copilot).
    My husband is a captain for a Big 5 airline, 22 years on the line. There is alot of gender discrimination against female pilots among the older pilots, younger pilots tend not to care as much. He doesn’t care who is flying next to him, as long as that individual is qualified.

    • U.S. pilots do not tend to be unionized. Reagan busted up all the unions a long time ago. Many pilots in the U.S. are paid so little they qualify for food stamps.

      I wonder if Joe Cowley had tweeted something similar about an Asian pilot, if he’d have gotten off with only probation.

  28. This is awesome!!! She is a bad-ass!!! Women, we must stand up to these “men”! (Using caution though, sometimes it can be truly dangerous.)

  29. Mysterious Stranger says:

    As an aspiring fighter pilot when I was a boy, I must say that statistically, women are actually better at handling high G-forces than males. That’s pretty cool, if I say so myself.

  30. As a pilot in training in the air force, and the only woman on my squadron, I have experienced years of constant ribbing from my peers that they must clear the skies whenever I go flying because I’m a woman and I will crash into every other aircraft up there. They think it’s banter but they soon realise it isn’t when I tell them what I think! I can’t change the world one person at a time, and unfortunately men are still intimidated by women doing jobs that were previously thought of as only accessible to men. It’s reassuring and empowering to hear about this pilot experiencing the same sort of problem as me and having no hesitation in very publicly doing the right thing.

  31. Women should not fly planes. Women are not calm as men. It’s the fact. Women can fly planes, it just at the few seconds of high stress, disaster happens with women pilots.

    Give you an example, who would do better in this high stress scenario, man or woman: A captain is trying to save the plane from crashing, then the captain looks over to the co-captain and sees that the co-captain is dead with a massive head injury with blood all over the seat. Will a male captain remain calmer and focus on getting the plane on the ground or a woman captain?

    Before you slam this post, if you were the passenger on the plane that was going down and you had a choice of a man pilot or a woman pilot, which one would you pick? Be honest.

    • That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.

      Women are no more emotional or prone to stress than men. That is a gross lie used to gaslight women “into their place”. This isn’t the 1700’s. We’re in the 2000’s now. You’re welcome to join us, at any time.

  32. Jeff Gerst says:

    She was absolutely right to remove a disruptive passenger from the flight. New commercial pilots are seeking those 250 hour pilot jobs , which can be difficult as an inexperienced commercial pilot.

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