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
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~

Submitted by courteous (not verified) on
Yeah, I really don't care what excuse this woman had. When you are on a flight, you are under the direction of the flight crew. That time extends from when you board the flight until you walk off the plane. If they say it's not time to get your luggage out, then listen. They have rules they have to abide by and so do the travelers. Your whole reaction screams "We are entitled!" Just sit down, shut up, and follow the rules. (and no, I have no connection to the airline industry, I just hate people who feel that rudeness is acceptable)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
I understand where this guy is coming from. But we ALL have to put up with mean customers and the like. Some of us don't have the option to curse over a loudspeaker at a customer, it's called work.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
You're making yourself out to be a prisoner of circumstance rather literally as if your occupation keeps you from exercising free will. Nonsense. Of course you have the option to curse out customers, just as Stephen did. It's just that you're far too cowardly to do such a thing and would prefer to deny you hold any responsibility for your own gaping cowardice by masquerading as a helpless victim of your work environment. There's nothing that Americans despise more than shucksters who make a mountain of excuses in order to evade any sense of personal accountability. And it's spineless yes men like you that end up the most miserable as you'll spend your entire life living with the pain of self regret in preference to self discipline.

Submitted by Julie (not verified) on
Passengers forget that flight attendants are on flights to protect the safety of their safety and that of their fellow passengers. It's really very dangerous to walk around at 30,000 feet. After years of flying they (passengers) take their safety for granted. That seat belt has prevented many of us from incurring a concussion or worse. Flight attendents don't seem to recognize the ignorance that has become ingrained in passengers and expect them to follow rules without question. We Americans feel that we are entitled to do as we chose. There is some real lack of understanding going on in the skies.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
Wasn't this passenger violating an FAR? Is she being fined by the FAA?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
i am amazed that more people do not pose this question. it sounds like the passenger violated FAR... isn't there a rule that says if you disobey or attack a flight crew member, you could be fined or arrested?? it sounds like this would have been a great time for them to enforce this rule. he/she deserves it!

Submitted by Happy Traveler (not verified) on
Irate: Who cares about you waiting for an hour? Big whoop, I waited 3 hours once and didnt cry for water after. And who cares about you being told not to use headphones? Is your life gonna end cuz you have to remove your headphones for a minute? They were probably ugly headphones anyway. daisymay27: None of us have to put up with disrepsect. Its called "grow a pair and stand up for yourself". I love telling rude customers to shove it. It makes work so much more enjoyable. "The customer is always right" attitude has entitled people to feel that they deserve to get what they want when they want it regardless of the way they address the person serving them. There are way too many spoiled brats walking around mouthing off to everyone. What goes around comes around so keep it up and see what happens.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
Thanks for saying it, people ARE spoiled brats mouthing off to everyone to get what they want. I've been in customer service for 15 years and it just gets worse every day. It's become acceptable for people to be rude and absolutely idiotic. No one knows why they are complaining, except that they feel like they are owed everything without question or accountability. The world would do well to remember that you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar and if they would just give the basic common courtesy of being a polite human being--they'll usually get what they are asking for. Additionally, major companies should stop condoning the abuse that people are allowed to dole out to their employees who have to suck it up and take it every day. No matter how bad your life is, someone else has it worse . . . I just re read the post and began to smile again. NO ONE has to put up with being treated like crap.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
What a way to leave your job. I bet there are plenty of people who wish they could leave their jobs in the same manner, Way to go Stephen Slater!!! I know that I would like to remove from the plane all of those passengers who carry on the over sized carry-ons rather than check in their luggage. What about the passenger who caused this whole mess, where is she??? She is the one that should be charged and facing jail!!!!!!!

Submitted by Jary (not verified) on
Thank you Steven for doing what so many of us WISH we would have done but lack the integrity to follow our true "still small voice" inside. Instead we bottle it up, go home kick the wife ,who in turn hits the kid who in turn pushes the cat down the stairs and then let out the furtive, hostile passive aggressive grumblings at the job the next day. My admiration is strong for Steven- a real man who stood up for the cooperative passengers and himself by putting the fault right back to where it belonged -on the passenger who failed to comply and on the airline whose other employees failed to back him up in a time of need. Let's watch JetBlue stock for awhile, shall we.? Newark Liberty already reports more than 40% in ticket changes from JetBlue to OTHER airlines, even for higher ticket prices, since the episode. Now who lost ? Conclusion: I ,like most people, would pay extra to fly with him and feel SAFE!! Thanks Steven. Glad my children see someone unafraid to call it out!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
So, why isn't the passenger who was disobeying safety rules charged with the same felony violations as Slater? Wasn't he recklessly endangering fellow passengers? His bag could have fallen on someone's head. It is criminal the way passengers get away with major rudeness and unsafe practices. If a flight attendant is reported and found "guilty", he/she is reprimanded, suspended or fired. Nothing happens to the jackass passengers.

Submitted by Lets get back t... (not verified) on
Please people. Who really cares if the passengers feel entitled or the flight attendants are overstressed? Way I see it is this... it all goes back to the basic rules that our parents tought us. Treat others as you would like them to treat you! What right did this woman have to totally disregard Stephens request. Seems to me she was irritated already and very confrontational. And for gosh sakes... APOLOGIZE if you hit or bump someone. The apology isn't an admission of intention to hurt him, just a simple recognition of a mistake. When did it become alright for humans to treat each other like animals??

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
Immature behavior is quite rampant. Blame it on stress. Blame it on new math. Blame it on experimental social engineering. Blame it on gluten. Blame it on absence of emotional education. Blame it on negation of religion by education. Blame it on your culture. Blame it on the new/old/your generation. Blame it on Rock-n-Roll. Blame it on Rap. Blame it on Caligula. Blame it on lead. Emotional maturity is a growth/learning process. Stunted by hypnosis of TV/PC. Stunted by endorphines(food/sex/excitement). Nurtured by live social ritual, games and interaction.

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