Thursday, August 12, 2010

JetBlue's angry flight attendant

By now everybody has probably heard about the story about Steve Slater, the JetBlue flight attendant who walked off the job in dramatic fashion early this week:

After a dispute with a passenger who stood to fetch luggage too soon on a full flight just in from Pittsburgh, Mr. Slater, 38 and a career flight attendant, got on the public-address intercom and let loose a string of invective.

Then, the authorities said, he pulled the lever that activates the emergency-evacuation chute and slid down, making a dramatic exit not only from the plane but, one imagines, also from his airline career.

On his way out the door, he paused to grab a beer from the beverage cart. Then he ran to the employee parking lot and drove off, the authorities said.

He was arrested at his home in Belle Harbor, Queens, a few miles from the airport, and charged with felony counts of criminal mischief and reckless endangerment.

In the days since, Slater has become a folk hero of sorts. A Facebook page created for him now has over 190 thousand fans, and some people have even offered to donate towards his legal defense. While I can't defend Slater's actions - they were illegal and possibly dangerous - I certainly have empathy for him. Flight attendants are on the front lines of a mode of travel that is growing increasingly unpleasant, and his encounter with a rude passenger sent him to the breaking point.

Speaking of the incident that set Slater off:

One passenger stood up to retrieve belongings from the overhead compartment before the crew had given permission. Mr. Slater instructed the person to remain seated. The passenger defied him. Mr. Slater reached the passenger just as the person was pulling down the luggage, which struck Mr. Slater in the head.

Mr. Slater asked for an apology. The passenger instead cursed at him. Mr. Slater got on the plane’s public-address system and cursed out the passenger for all to hear. Then, after declaring that 20 years in the airline industry was enough, he blurted out, “It’s been great!” He activated the inflatable evacuation slide at a service exit and left the world of flight attending behind.

Isn't disobeying and interfering with a flight crew, which she obviously did, a federal offense? Why wasn't this passenger, who felt she was too important to obey Slater's instructions, arrested as well?

She shares blame for this incident, and it wouldn't bother me in the least if authorities made an example of her to the flying public.

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