August 11, 2010

Steven Slater- Sliding Into Infamy...

I'd originally planned to write about a much different subject, but that was Before Slater.

If you somehow missed the coverage, here's the story.

Yesterday, a JetBlue flight attendant, after an altercation with a passenger about obeying the seat belt sign, finally decided enough was enough. He announced over the PA system that the passenger in question had called him a "mother-----r" and responded with a "F--- Y--" of his own, grabbed a couple of beers from the aircraft bar, opened the door to inflate the emergency escape slide and ran away home.

While I don't condone Mr Slater's behaviour, I can understand where he is coming from. I've worked in the airlines for around 5 years and sometimes wonder if putting up with all the abuse from rude passengers is worth it. Imagine 20 years of putting up with the same, not to mention watching your working conditions and pension fund slowly eroding away.

In my time flying, I've either experienced or witnessed the following:

- A passenger calling me a "C---", because I asked her to turn off her phone (for the third time)

- A male passenger shoving a junior FA when she told him we didn't have any more newspapers onboard

- One passenger kicking the back of another passenger's seat so hard it broke

- Passenger spitting in the face of a ground staff member

- Passenger punching a female check-in agent because he was late and missed his flight

These are just a fraction of the types of things that go on every day. As far as I know, only the puncher got any serious punishment (but not including jail time as he had no prior offences)

In addition to the argument with the passenger, Mr Slater's father had recently died, and he was caring for his mother who is suffering from cancer. It's easy to see why he went over the edge.

While Mr Slater clearly deserves some sort of consequnce for his behaviour, I don't think jail time is the solution. It will only punish his dying mother. Perhaps some sort of community work and anger management/de-stressing course would be more appropriate.

The public response has been surprising. The overwhelming majority of the general public support Slater, citing that they too have had enough of inconsiderate and rude behaviour from others. Twitter has been going crazy with news about the event, support for Steve and rightly questioning if the passenger concerned will face any repercussions for her part in the drama. (So far, there has not been much mention of her, and one article stated that as yet, she has not been questioned by police.)

Of course, there are those whose opinion is that Slater endangered the aircraft by deploying the slide. On the surface that may be true, but think about this. Flight attendants are trained to operate slides correctly. Even in a fit of frustration, it is very hard to override that training. He would have known not to open the door if ramp staff or vehicles were present. Checking that little window is clear is a daily habit of many years, and is an automatic response for most flight attendants when going anywhere near a door handle.

Think about the passengers we always hear of in the news, getting drunk and disorderly for no real reason other than they didn't want to switch off their BlackBerry or weren't allowed to have another beer. More often than not, they get let off with a slap on the wrist and a few hundred dollars poorer for the fine. I've noticed this is the case even where the aircraft has been diverted- actions that cost far more than re-packing a slide and a few delayed flights. Now, critics of Mr Slater are saying he should go to jail, for as long as 7 years? Killers and rapists get less than that. What Mr Slater did was wrong, but he deserves some compassion. Clearly his normal way of thinking was not there. He deserves help, not jail. I hope he gets it.


  1. Another Great Article: We both know that 99% of the passengers are law abiding citizens & comply, There is not ONE FA on this planet that has not wanted to "BLOW UP" at a passenger. I, for one & am speaking for myself, i'm tired of disruptive overlooked & rewarded passenger behavior!

  2. It's always New York, isn't it? There's a story that made the rounds in the '80s of the TWA ticket agent at JFK who got so fed up with a passenger he went in the back, clocked out, went back to the counter, punched the passenger, clocked back in, and helped the next passenger. The only thing TWA was able to discipline him for was taking an unauthorized break.

  3. Hear hear Shelby!

    Oh my, Scott that is one of the best stories I've ever heard!

  4. Experienced passenger here and although I've been fortunate enough not to see any really bad disruptions, the ones I did see were bad enough. The worst for me were the flights out of Las Vegas. I dreaded those, especially on Southwest. Southwest was fine, but the passengers often boarded drunk and broke and were aweful. Much of the rude behavior I saw occurred in the concourses with angry passengers who just will not accept the situation at hand and believe the world turns around them--mean and threatening. Aweful.

  5. I couldn't agree more, 7 years jail time is ridiculous. I must admit I laughed a bit when I saw this on the news... I don't condone it either, but hey, at least he went out with style.

  6. I completely agree with you. Sending him to jail would be over kill. He needs to perhaps get some help with handling stress but not jail time.

    He didn't actually hurt anyone. The possibility was there and he should have known better since it's impossible to be 100% sure there's no one in the way through those little door windows. Still, no real harm was done by him.

    The worst thing about what he did, in my opinion, was drawing attention away from the offending passenger. She should have been punished for how she treated him. If nothing else she should have been forbidden to fly on jetBlue anymore. Instead, he made a big fuss and as far as anyone can tell she just got away with her appalling behavior.

    That's the real crime.

  7. If airlines listened to me, they would check two hold bags at no cost and charge BY THE POUND for carryon materials.

    Sometimes they are SO stupid it makes one wonder how they stay in business at all.

    Come to that, lots of 'em didn't, huh.


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