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Southwest Airlines fired pilot who addressed passengers in Spanish when engine burst into flames

Simon Calder’s Travel

A Southwest Airlines captain has filed a complaint against the airline, which sacked him over his decision to speak to passengers rather than fly the plane during an emergency last year.

David Legeros was in command of a Boeing 737 that saw an engine burst into flames moments after takeoff from Houston Hobby Airport in August 2023 on the way to Cancun.

The plane’s right-hand engine suffered “severe damage” during the emergency, but rather than take the controls the captain chose to let the First Officer fly the plane. Instead, Mr Legeros communicated with air traffic control for a return emergency landing back in Houston, according to court documents obtained by The Independent.

In an application for an injunction against the airline filed in a New York district court in April, Mr Legeros states that flames could be seen from inside the cabin, making the passengers “unsurprisingly terrified.”

The court papers state that Mr Legeros then spoke in Spanish and English to the passengers to try and reassure them that the situation was under control.

Following the incident he says that he was reprimanded by the airline, as Southwest’s standard operating procedures instruct the captain to take control of the aircraft during an emergency situation, according to PYOK.

The former captain claimed that if he had taken control of the plane, the aircraft could have suddenly jolted and detached the burning engine, leaving the risk of it falling to the ground.

“Had SWA (Southwest Airlines) decided to reward Mr Legeros, or even ignore him, following his heroics, this story would be over, but SWA decided to punish him,” the petition states.

The court documents claim that the airline found that Mr Legeros “engaged in serious misconduct” after they investigated the incident on Flight WN307.

“Instead of immediate termination for the sin of safely getting a flaming aircraft to the tarmac, Mr Legeros was forced to sign a ‘Last Chance Agreement’ with a myriad of extraordinary requirements for his ‘retraining program,” the injunction application wrote.

Despite the complaint claiming the passengers onboard were “heavily Hispanic”, it alleges that management had criticised him for speaking Spanish to the passengers.

“Based on the pretense of some ‘serious misconduct,’ but in reality due to his status as a person of color, SWA has…

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