A bad bad day

I feel very sorry for Steven Slater, the Jet Blue Flight attendant in New York who "resigned" yesterday.  If you have not heard the story-- JetBlue 1052 from Pittsburgh landed at  John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) in New York around midday.

There are several versions of what happened floating around. One version says it started at takeoff when Slater had to intervene in a flight between two passengers. Upon landing one of those passengers allegedly got up and grabbed their bag as the plane was taxiing in. Upon being told to resume her seat by the FA, the passenger refused. When the FA walked over to tell the passenger, she had to sit down, he was sworn at. Allegedly somehow the flight attendant got hit in the head - either with the passenger's bag or the luggage holder door. It is not clear if this occurred at the start or the end of the flight.

What is agreed is after landing, the Flight Attendant walked to the front of the plane, repeated the expletive back to the passenger over the plane's PA system, activated the emergency chute and threw his cabin bags down the chute.. It is alleged he grabbed a beer from the galley before jumping down the chute. He then drove home to his boyfriend. (see this cartoon re-enactment)

He has now been arrested and charged with if convicted the charges would give him seven years in jail. The authorities take a dim view of anyone causing trouble in planes. Deploying an emergency chute on the tarmac and abandoning one's post is probably more dangerous than someone getting out of your seat to get your bag early!

And thinking about it.....It is not a behaviour pattern we want repeated. There are many other things Flight Attendants could do with the equipment and doors they look after. More concerning was what another attendant said: "Kudos to you, I am a former flight attendant and only wish I had the nerve to do what you did."

The public seem to be also supporting the agent as words of support have been flooding in:  "I think the public is overwhelmingly sympathetic to him" He has become a massive hit on Facebook and people are talking about some kind of TV reality show!

Jet Blue are not be too happy (though it has generated a lot of publicity for the airline).    The cost of replacing that slide is estimated to be $25 000. NB JetBlue is one of my favourite airlines (Number 8 on my top 21!)  but I noticed they have made no comments on their official Facebook site (fans have not been silent with comments on the JetBlue Facebook community page....  I was tempted to comment myself on their Facebook to see what they would do! Normally JetBlue are prolific in their use of social media!

I myself was was negative in this blog about Flight Attendants (MEL-SYD -the Unfriendly Way) on a flight I took on the weekend as their customer service attitude I felt was lacking. But sometimes who would blame them?? I have seen some very poor public behaviours and who cops a lot of it? Check in staff and Flight Attendants. I have seen boarding cards torn up and thrown in agent's faces, racist jokes told to FAs about their nationality and FAs abused for not having a vegetarian meal (which the passenger had not actually ordered).

 Flight Attendants have had their pay downgraded continually since the 1980's. They now look after more passengers than ever before and they are the front line for abusive, negative, frustrated, drunk  and angry passengers. With more people flying, more security, more delays there seem to be a  lot more of those passengers. In addition in the USA people are carrying much more on board as the airlines now charge for luggage checked in. Theres more scrabbling for binspace than ever before.

So, lets give our FAs a break. Unhappy with the airline's treatment of your luggage, its frequent flyer policy, your security delay, your seat location? Angry with the fog over your airport, volcanoes in Iceland or an air traffic control strike? Don t blame the FA- don't  take it out on them! Your Arline has complaint hotlines, postal addresses, Twitter and Facebook!

And treating people with respect gets you further. I was in line on one of the winter days in 2008 when the whole of the NorthEast was shut down by ice and storms. I was in Charlotte flying to San Francisco via New York. There was a long line of distressed, frustrated people yelling into cell phones, I joined the line as it snaked to a weary looking check in clerk. No one in front of me was happy with their answers. It was like a scene from Little Britain: "Can I get to Chicago?...computer says no".
My turn: "hi...not a good day"
She: wary grim look
Me: not your fault
She: try to tell these people that
Me: Yes, I am amused that each of them think you are personally responsible for the entire weather patterns over the whole of the Northeast
She: That's not half of it
Me: I have been hearing. I imagine you wanted to run away when you got to work this morning. I appreciate you staying until now but after me you can run away to Australia!
She: you're Australian aren't you?
Me; Yep
She: every Australian I have ever dealt with in 20 years of travel has been delightful
At this point, as I offered up silent prayers of thanks that this woman had got nice Aussies, she re-ticketed me FIRST CLASS on a new flight. I got to San Francisco five hours late --but I got there that day.

7 Responses
  1. Anonymous Says:

    Pet annoyance for me: People who get up before you should on a plane.
    I think our friend who 'resigned' certainly went out in style :-), but I do hope he gets some help and not just thrown in prison.

  2. clare Says:

    great story, i did have a laugh when i read about this yesterday! you missed out the part where he allegedly grabbed a beer from the galley before 'exiting the plane' and driving home haha!! i hope he doesnt get prison. got to say, it's one job i would not want to do!!

  3. My favourite getting up story (not sure if apocryphal)

    as the plane taxied in, passenger stood up and went to the door. FA told him to be seated. He refused. She called Captain. He told her "dont worry. I will fix it."
    Plane arrived at gate. Seatbelt sign went on. Aisle filled with people. Captain comes on PA: Ladies and Gentlemen, today we will be deplaning from the rear of the aircraft!

  4. the beer bit has had some variations.....waiting to hear the facts on that one!
    He has become a bit of a folk hero!

  5. clare Says:

    even better is the alleged ending to the story: "In a final bizarre twist, police arrested Slater later while he was at home reportedly having sexual relations with his partner."

  6. well after a hard day.....

  7. Carie Says:

    I heard a version where when they got to his house, he was quite tipsy. And, when the police asked him if he'd been drinking, he said, "yes. while waiting for you to get here!" LOL. Poor guy. With all the stress in his life, as reported, sounds like he just lost it. I agree....hope he gets counseling and not too much jail time.

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