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JetBlue flight attendant Steve Slater bids unfriendly skies goodbye

Sandy Smith's picture

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.


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!


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