Who Can Blame JetBlue Flight Attendant Steven Slater for Losing His Sh*t?

JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater made history yesterday by cursing up a storm on his just-landed flight’s PA system, then sliding down the plane’s emergency slide and running away like a bandit. The New York Times has more:

(On the flight from Pittsburgh to JFK), one passenger stood up to fetch 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 approached and reached the passenger just as the person pulled 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. Then he activated the inflatable evacuation slide at service exit R1; launched himself off the plane, an Embraer 190; ran to the employee parking lot; and left the airport in a car he had parked there.

The dramatic getaway was short-lived. The attendant, Steven Slater, 38, was arrested at his home not far away in Belle Harbor, Queens. He was charged with reckless endangerment and criminal mischief.

Slater, who served on JetBlue’s in-flight values committee, has been a flight attendant for 20 years, according to the NYT.

Besides providing the media with a heckuva story, Slater obviously just killed his flying career. The passenger with the luggage may have been the final straw, but I’d venture to guess that Slater has been frustrated for a while.

Right now, sitting in the airport in Nashville, I have to say that I understand Slater’s frustration. I had my toothpaste confiscated by the TSA in Denver at 4:30am. Said toothpaste tube was 1 oz. too large. I was tempted to curse out the well-meaning TSA newbie who informed me of my crime, but decided I’d rather catch my flight than be detained.

Irritation has become an integral part of air travel. I don’t know if this is what the Bin Laden crew intended when they devastated the East Coast on 9/11, but by the time you get done sitting in traffic to get to the airport, standing in the baggage-check line, taking off your shoes and hats and jacket, being treated like a criminal by the TSA (especially if you have crutches or a wheelchair–don’t get me started on that), putting your stuff back together, standing in line to board your overfull flight, and trying to wedge your carry-on into one of those coveted overhead spaces, you’re not exactly whistling Dixie.

And that’s when flight attendants start doing their thing. As in, telling you what to do, what to turn off, when to stand up. At that point, dealing with the human contents of the plane must feel like washing cats. As a flight attendant, this is what you do, day in and day out, deal with annoyed, frazzled, impatient people. I’d like to think I wouldn’t go AWOL like Slater in that situation, but I’m sure more than a few flight attendants have fantasized about it.

Bottom line: It’s a stressful job. Slater didn’t hurt anyone. He just lost his sh*t. I hope he gets a bold new career as a reality TV star. I think he may have earned it.

Written by Drea Knufken

Drea Knufken

Currently, I create and execute content- and PR strategies for clients, including thought leadership and messaging. I also ghostwrite and produce press releases, white papers, case studies and other collateral.