JetBlue flight attendant Steve Slater bids unfriendly skies goodbye

Employees have ended their careers in creative fashion before, but none so memorably - or abruptly - as Stephen Slater, the 38-year-old JetBlue flight attendant from Queens who decided he'd had enough when an uncooperative passenger pushed his buttons at the end of a flight from Pittsburgh.

The passenger had begun to unload her carry-on bag from the overhead compartment before the crew had given passengers the OK to get out of their seats. When Slater asked the woman to sit back down, she instead continued to remove her bag, which fell out of the cabin and struck Slater in the head. An argument then ensued, and when Slater asked her to apologize, she cursed him instead.

So Slater responded in kind. He took to the plane's public-address system and announced: "To the passenger who just called me a m*****f***er, f*** you. I've been in this business 28 years, and I've had it." Then he grabbed two beers from the galley, opened the rear exit, deployed the emergency exit slide and slid his way out of a job.

The act appeared to have lifted a load off his shoulders, for when a squadron of Port Authority and New York City cops worthy of a hostage-taking arrived at his home in Queens' Belle Harbor section to arrest him, he emerged from his house with a broad smile on his face.

Steven Slater wins hearts of passengers and fellow flight attendants

What would make a man who obviously enjoyed flying and travel, as his MySpace and Facebook profiles make clear, snap so quickly?

Judging from the many comments posted to Slater's Facebook fan page, his fellow flight attendants and other airline passengers know the answer to this question only too well.

The friendly skies of old have become a lot less friendly over the last decade or so. The combination of a frenetic work pace, long hours and dealing with passengers who still feel entitled in an era when airlines have cut out perks left and right have turned the job of flight attendant from glamorous and exciting to grueling and demanding.

Uncooperative passengers with a sense of entitlement such as the one who got Slater's goat have become the bane of many a flight attendant's existence, and the outpouring of support for Slater shows that many both in and out of the industry sympathize with the beleaguered flight attendants. "Sometimes we as passengers forget that the customer is NOT always right!" wrote one Facebooker. Said another, "Nobody ever gives airline attendants enough credit for all the shit people give them. This is fantastic."

While JetBlue says that neither passengers nor crew were endangered by Slater's impromptu resignation, law enforcement officials say his actions were nonetheless serious, for the emergency slides deploy rapidly and could have injured a ground crew member if one were in the way.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns New York's Kennedy International Airport, has charged Slater with felony counts of criminal mischief and reckless endangerment. If convicted, the JetBlue flight attendant could face up to seven years in prison. But if public reaction is any guide -- there's even talk of setting up a public fund for Slater's defense -- there's probably not a jury in the country that would convict him.

Comments

Submitted by Chris Winter (not verified) on
I support Stephen Slater and hope JetBlue has the sense not to come down too hard on him. One thing struck me in the article: If Slater has been a flight attendant for 28 years, according to the age you give him he must have started at age 10.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
I hear his parents were in the airline business. Perhaps viewing it from that angle, he feels he has been impacted by the airline industry for 28 years no?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
Slater needed to keep his cool. Since he didn't how do you know if the passenger's luggage didn't give him a concussion an MRI may prove that he might have had one and that caused an outburst. I hit my head in a pool got a concussion and had a seizure- a level one emergency. A number of females perceived it as a "public organism" and called the cops which resulted in a interrogation. When cops see you as a "pervert" the interrogation can get "insane and surreal." Perhaps Stephen Slater needs a neurological MRI and a good lawyer. I would have told the woman that since she stood up while the plane was moving she would be responsible for any liability issues if she didn't set down. If she hit me in the head I would make her responsible if there were an injury.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
Who cares that you hit your head in a pool? Dont explain your life. Theres no such thing as a "public organism". No one cares what you wouldve told the woman.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
i think i love you

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
Slater is my new hero!

Submitted by Irate traveller (not verified) on
I do not agree with the statement -"dealing with passengers who still feel entitled " Flight attendants have taken the increased security restrictions as an excuse to be rude and unhelpful. Bossing around the passengers has become the norm and treating passengers like sheep is expected. If anyone dare say anything to these "stressed" flight attendants. What about the time the attendant refused to give us water even though we were waiting on the tarmac for an hour? What about the time another suddenly decides that we cant use headphones while we are boarding? Myabe the woman was in a hurry to get the next flight? For all we know, the airline screwed up, bumped her twice and she was going to miss her connecting flight yet again

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
As a crew member of 8 years, I disagree with this in a BIG way. I would like to know when it became socially acceptable to poke someone on their rear to get their attention, say "PSSSST" or whistle, or snap fingers to begin to make your request. Since when is it okay to sit down in your seat, that you have rented for a few hours, and leave your 50 lb bag sitting in the aisle blocking everyone behind you and expect it to magically jump into the overhead bin? The fact of the matter is, the majority of your crew members DO NOT CARE if you are talking on your phone, listening to your Ipod, or doing any of the other 20 things we ask you not not at certain times, however, the FAA says that is what has to be done. It's that simple. Should one of the FAA or one of your crews supervisors be on board, and they haven't done their job, guess who's getting it? If it's the FAA, your flight attendant could be fined personally, If its a supervisor,here you go into a fact finding meeting. Sounds like a big to do because someone can't turn off their phone or stay seated until the plane is parked, huh? Pretty much seems that most of us learned to FOLLOW DIRECTIONS in elementary school.IF you didn't, perhaps air travel is not for you.It is a privilege, not a right. You can rest assured these same passengers that are so nasty sing a different tune when they or their loved one they are traveling with decide mid-flight they are having a heart attack or some other condition and they NEED your assistance. Then they can't be nice enough. Instead of slamming the flight attendants for doing what they are required to do , how about pointing out how sad it is that grown ups can't follow rules a 6 year old could understand?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
How does it feel to be a self-entitled passenger? Smug I bet.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
thats still no excuse to disobey someone who is in authority over you, especially when that person is looking out for your safety and for the safety of others. it sounds like you have had a rough time on some flights and that is unfortunate, but even if this woman had experianced something similar that gives her no right to take her frustrations with the arlines out on her flight attendants. she is a grown woman, not a two year old, but she acted, it sounds, like a spoiled toddler who threw a fit when she didn't get her way. granted, it sounds as though, slater did as well; both were in the wrong in my opinion and should have acted as adluts, not children behaving badly~

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