People do some pretty strange things when they’ve had it all the way up to here … But the story of the Jet Blue day in the annuls of “you’ve got to be kidding me” tops all heretofore winners. Steve Slater, you have just had your five minutes of fame stretched into at least 24 hours, unless of course jail time is in the cards. YouTube and SNL are working on this material as we speak.
As the story goes, Steve Slater, beleaguered flight attendant for Jet Blue, allegedly cursed out an entire flight of passengers before making a dramatic exit through the plane’s emergency exit with beer under arm, eventually making his way home to Queens. Steve Slater, you are now famous not only in the U.S. but all the way over the pond as well.
No matter how you color Steve Slater, I think it is safe to say you can color him GONE. At least from Jet Blue.
Here is a compilation of media coverage offered up by USA Today.
ABC News is among the numerous outlets covering the story, writing that the incident came as the aircraft used on a Pittsburgh-to-New York JFK flight was taxiing to the gate on Monday around noon ET.
Then, ABC says "one of the passengers apparently got out of his seat to grab a bag from an overhead compartment. The flight attendant walked over to tell him he had to sit down. The two reportedly got into an argument and somehow the flight attendant got hit in the head with either the bag or the compartment door."
That's when things got interesting, according to the various media reports.
The Wall Street Journal writes the attendant -- Steve Slater -- "demanded an apology from the passenger, but the passenger refused to give one. The two argued back and forth before the passenger directed an expletive at Mr. Slater, [an airport] official said. Mr. Slater then got on the plane's PA system and directed the same obscenity at all the passengers, and added that he especially meant it for the man who refused to apologize, the official said."
"Then," The New York Times writes in its City Room blog, Slater "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." Additionally, the newspaper notes that "on his way out the door, he paused to grab a beer from the beverage cart."
The Associated Press says "Port Authority police were notified about 25 minutes later," which apparently allowed Slater enough time to board the JFK AirTrain, get to his car and drive to his home in nearby Queens. The Times notes he was "charged with felony counts of criminal mischief and reckless endangerment."
Speaking to the charges, an unnamed law enforcement official tells the Times: "When they hit that emergency chute, it drops down quickly within seconds. If someone was on the ground and it came down without warning, someone could be injured or killed."
ABC adds background on Slater, saying that according to his profile at the professional LinkedIn website, he was part of JetBlue's "inflight values committee" and was chairman of the "uniform redesign committee."
Regardless, Slater's dramatic exit left many at a loss for words -- including New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly. "It's a strange way to quit, let's put it that way," he says to CNN. "I don't think he'll be able to come back."
Twenty-four hours later, Steve Slater is taking on the characteristics of a folk hero. Advocates are coming out cheering his stand on bad behavior - not his - of the flying public. Read this excerpt apology from an honest everyday generic passenger to Steve from the Washington Post...
... All I can say is, Steven Slater, I deserved it.
Why send this man to jail? He’s been punished enough by years of dealing with me. When he directed a choice stream of invective at that one passenger, no one was hurt, he bailed before the plane took off -- and in the moment that will enshrine him forever in the hearts and minds of his countrymen, he even grabbed a beer. People talk about flight attendants’ coolness in moments of crisis. This was one of those moments. Forget the landing on the Hudson! Sure, Sully nailed a water landing and safely evacuated a plane full of passengers -- but did he grab a beer before bailing out himself? This was a stroke of genius.
I say we take any hard time he gets and give it to Lindsay Lohan. As anyone else who was forced to watch "Herbie: Fully Loaded" on that flight to Denver can attest, she's made more passengers suffer than Steve ever did.
Perhaps the biggest surprise is that something of this sort hasn't happened long before now.