Air Malta is taking disciplinary action against one of its pilots who said he was “proud to be racist” in reaction to a Facebook post about a young soldier’s shocking murder in London.
Distancing itself from Captain Kevin Whitehead’s comments, the national airline condemned its employee’s comments.
Capt. Whitehead was replying to a post by a Facebook user that read “as already said I am not a racist but this cannot continue”, accompanying a CNN article on the brutal assault.
I am genuinely disappointed by what I said
Drummer Lee Rigby, 25, was hacked to death in Woolwich, southeast London, on Wednesday.
One of the attackers was filmed wielding a bloodied meat cleaver, saying: “We swear by almighty Allah we will never stop fighting you.”
As investigators were trying to establish the motive behind the murder, social media flooded with xenophobic and Islamophobic comments.
But Capt. Whitehead’s post that he was “proud to be a racist” did not impress his employers, especially as he is seen wearing an Air Malta uniform on his Facebook profile.
A British man who lives in Malta drew the airline’s attention to Mr Whitehead’s comment, noting he did not know the pilot, but it took him seconds to find out he was an Air Malta captain.
He said the “abhorrent” language came from one of the airline’s representatives in a public space, putting the company’s image in jeopardy.
He questioned how non-Maltese clients would feel once it was made public that one of its pilots was not only a self-confirmed racist, but proud to be one.
The man, who asked to remain anonymous, told Times of Malta that neither he nor his relatives would fly with Air Malta again because the incident tarnished their image of the carrier.
“How do I know that Air Malta is taking this incident seriously if we are not informed what action it will be taking?” he asked.
When contacted, the national airline said it had taken the issue very seriously and investigated the matter as soon as it was brought to its attention.
Yesterday morning, the airline’s chief executive Peter Davies and chief officer flight operations, Capt. Mark Micallef Eynaud, met Capt. Whitehead to discuss the issue.
“The views expressed by Captain Whitehead on his personal Facebook page do not reflect the views of Air Malta,” an airline spokesman said.
“Such statements are in direct conflict with the airline’s internal social media policies and expected behaviour. Air Malta will be taking disciplinary action against the employee.”
Asked to specify what action it was taking against the captain, a spokesman said this was now an internal matter and it was not the airline’s policy to discuss such actions in public.
The spokesman added that Capt. Whitehead acknowledged his mistake and apologised by saying: “I am genuinely disappointed by what I said.
“I don’t consider myself a racist and the comments were written in the spur of the moment, without due thought, after watching an upsetting online video.
“I express my sincere apologies to anyone I may have offended and for any trouble this incident might have caused.”
The national carrier insisted that it had always sought to maintain the highest level possible of customer service and condemned any racial comments or behaviour by its employees.