You Only Live Once, This Is How I'm Doing It!

Only funny in the movies

By now you’ve probably heard about that flight attendant (Steven Slater) that lost it on a JetBlue flight yesterday. In case you haven’t heard yet, here is a summary of what happened taken from the New York Times article about the incident:

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 planeโ€™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, โ€œItโ€™s been great!โ€ He activated the inflatable evacuation slide at a service exit and left the world of flight attending behind.

Here is the full story.

Let me say this, the passenger was way out of line. The reason you’re required to remain seated is not only for your own safety but also for the safety of those around you. This is perfectly illustrated by the fact that Mr. Slater was hit in the head, presumably when the plane started moving again unexpectedly. If it hadn’t been Mr. Slater who was hit, another passenger could have easily been hurt. Even if you have no regard for your own or others’ safety it’s actually against the law to ignore lighted signs, placards and crew member’s instructions. Doing so can land you with hefty fines.

Despite this, it’s not at all uncommon for passengers to get up when the seat belt sign is on, whether in the air or when taxiing to the gate. Ignorance, short connections and just plain lack of regard for authority are all contributing factors. As a flight attendant, I’ve made too many announcements to count asking passengers to return to their seats and buckle up. It’s extremely frustrating to be ignored in the best of circumstances. When you’ve had a long, frustrating day or week or month it can be infuriating. Obviously that was the case for Mr. Slater.

In a way, I say he is freaking awesome. There were times (mostly after dealing with scheduling, not so much passengers) that I was tempted to say “screw it!” and walk off the job. Then I’d spend an afternoon lying on an exotic beach soaking up sun while getting paid and that would cool me off for several months. I love my job and short of it hurting my relationship with my husband or family I wouldn’t dream of actually quitting. The temptation? Definitely comes up from time to time though.

But, if you’ve absolutely had it with the whining, the lack of sleep, the disrespect and being treated like a vending machine on heels (or in a tie) I totally get that. Flight attendants tend to be animated, dramatic people so if they have to quit, going out with a bang seems like the way to do it. And trust me, those slides? Definitely bang. They’re loud! They’re also a lot of fun to go down. I’ve only had the pleasure once. No, it wasn’t while making a dramatic exit from an aircraft, it was just during emergency training. Given the chance I’d love to go down one again. Of course, as long as it isn’t because I’m trying to escape a burning airplane because I imagine that? Would be less than fun.

The main part that bothers me about this whole story is Mr. Slater’s blatant disregard for the safety of the ground crew. He was so worried about the passenger remaining seated for safety’s sake and then he blows a slide once they reach the gate? Really? I suppose if you aren’t in the industry you may not understand why that’s a big deal.

According to this pdf document put out by the FAA, as of 1999, evacuation slides are required to fully inflate within six seconds. That’s almost no time to see that it’s happening and get out of the way. If you don’t get out of the way on time? There’s a good chance you’ll be severally injured or even killed.

Mr. Slater put his own dramatic need for attention above the lives of those who could have been on the ground working on the plane and unloading baggage. Not cool. I’m all for making a statement. If that means stealing a couple beers, cussing out passengers, storming off the airplane or whatever that’s one thing. It doesn’t hurt anyone but yourself and possibly your airline’s image. Endangering lives is a whole different story and for that Mr. Slater should be ashamed of himself. He should have known better.

Mr. Slater could have called the cockpit and informed them that he had been both verbally and physically assaulted by a passenger. (Yes, getting hit in the head with a bag qualifies as assault.) The captain could have called for police to meet the plane and the offending passenger would have been in a heck of a lot of trouble. Instead, as far as what has been reported, the offending passenger had no consequences for their actions. That passenger can write it off as a crazy flight attendant losing it and is no more likely to obey future instruction from crew members. This puts future crews at risk.

Mr. Slater threw away his career for a couple of beers and 15 minutes of fame and in the process risked lives. He traded his uniform for prison orange which, let’s face it, isn’t flattering on anyone. While what he did is funny to joke about and would make a great scene in a movie, it’s not behavior that should be applauded in real life. He’s just a troubled individual that lost it. He’s a cautionary tale, not a hero.




The working diet


  1. strawbrykiwi

    I'm really glad to hear about what someone in the industry has to say, because the whole death by slide possibility makes this a lot less cool.

    Also? Reporting the passenger would've been much sweeter justice. Pulling a "soccer player" (Belle is an expert) move and falling to the ground after being hit in the head would've been equally dramatic and would've gotten the PASSENGER in trouble instead of himself.

    One last thing, I cannot thank flight attendants enough for being awesome. The kindness they showed me when I was flying back and forth for my Grandparent's passing and funerals really helped me make it through the travels. The one set of flights I had where the crew were hamming it up to the point I actually laughed despite being so stressed and sad? Made my *month*.

    • I think so too! I would *much* rather see the passenger get in trouble than lose my job and get put in jail! Obviously he wasn't thinking clearly.

      I'm so glad you had good flight attendants, especially at such an awful time.

      I've said it before but 90% of crew and passengers are perfectly lovely. Every once in awhile you get a crazy one though. I guess that's just life.

  2. I agree with you. He was a douchebag. Very well written post, Abigail.

  3. Nick Thomas

    Oh. Please! Stop playing the "could have" game. Yes. The slide "could have" taken out a ramp person. But, then, the plane "could have" lurched while the rude passenger was removing his bag and IT "could have" killed a fellow passenger. Or the passenger "could have" thrown something at the F/A and hurt or killed another passenger. Or a good samaritan "could have" gone to the F/A's aid and a real fight ensued in the airplane. Or the F/A "could have" gone to the captain and the captain "could have" done nothing, taking the lazy way out. Or a piano "could have" fallen out of a passing 747 and hit the commuter plane. Woulda. Coulda. Shoulda. Don't get caught up in this 2nd guessing game. Nothing happened because of the slide. Don't make it into something which actually didn't happen.

  4. Having flown for many years as a passenger, I have often remarked that perhaps the only positive outcome of 9/11 was that people were more respectful to flight attendants and airline staff. Before 9/11, passengers were very disrespectful, but fear and a rules crackdown let to a more orderly boarding and deplaning process. I hope those pre-9/11 days are not upon us again. I don't want to return to the days when people jump up as soon as the wheels touch the ground, extreme excess luggage, boarding the plane before your number is called, ignoring requests to turn off electronics, and other rude acts that were so much a part of travel at that time. The airline has rules and by buying a ticket, you agree to follow them.
    As for Mr. Slater, he may have just started a new trend of people who quit their job while poetically proclaiming the major 'suck' points. Beer, passengers and safety in this case.

    • I wish I could tell you that people haven't gone back to ignoring the rules but they certainly have. Having to tell people to turn off their electronics, stow their bags or obey the seat belt sign happens all. the. time. And I'm ignored far too often.

      Perhaps people don't understand that the rules are there to protect them. All I want for my passengers is for them to have a safe and pleasant flight. When they're miserable, so am I. I certainly am not trying to make it that way.

      The way Mr. Slater quit his job is hilarious except for the danger factor. Had he just blown the slide before they got to the gate? I would have a very different opinion about him.

  5. Very interesting take. I had NOT thought of the force that the deploying slide would have. At first glance the story is hiLARious, and I do enjoy other people who have gone publicly stark raving mad. However, apparently he was a recovering alcoholic, so I think it's sad that he took the beers.

    That being said, if you are in a position to afford it, it's wicked fun to go out of a sucky job in a blaze of glory. It's just best if you only endanger your own career, not other people's safety.

    • Exactly. If this was done before the plane got to the gate he would have been my favorite.

      I didn't know he was a recovering alcoholic. That is sad. Hopefully he seeks help.

  6. p1l0t

    It sucks that popping that slide posed a danger to the workers on the ground. Because otherwise I love this story.

  7. I always wonder, WTH is it about getting into a giant aluminum tube that turns people into such cranky old bitches? So, so many passengers are way crankier than they have any right to be. I mean, I hate flying as much as anyone I know (no fear, though; I'm sure that's worse), but the nastiness is unpleasant for everyone.

    I'm with you; I'm a huge fan of the dramatic gesture, but this was way risky. I didn't know the slide itself could be dangerous, but I did assume that they're not easy to replace, that many people would be delayed because of his tantrum, etc., etc., etc. It's just not OK to make other people (most of whom were sitting in their seats!) suffer the consequences of your behavior!

    The cussing out of the passenger, though? Excellent!

    • I also have no idea why flying makes people so crazy. Personally I've always loved it because it means I'm going somewhere really amazing. Of course if you'd rather not go I can see being less enthusiastic. However, the rudeness? That I'll never understand. Never gets anyone anything positive.

      And yes, everything but the danger factor here is absolutely hilarious. I'm fairly positive there isn't a flight attendant out there that hasn't considered doing the exact same thing.

  8. I didn't even think of the endangering the ground people thing. I thought the story was funny, but a little over the top. There were many other ways that it could have been handled. It's funny in the sense of who hasn't wanted to be able to tell the world just how much your job sucks and go out in a blaze of glory!

    I don't understand the rudeness on planes. I am a person who is truly, truly afraid of flying. I'm deeply afraid of heights and I have panic attacks at the thought of flying. However I would NEVER use any of that as an excuse to be rude to anyone. They're there to do their jobs and our job isn't to hassle them for it.

  9. Totally interesting take on it. I always wanted to do something like that when I was a waitress, although, nothing I could have done would have EVER been as dangerous (or hilarious) as this.

  10. Obviously I don't understand it either. Nothing positive ever comes from treating people rudely, especially if that person is an authority figure like a flight attendant or customer service person. For the time you're traveling, those people kind of control your life. At least they control whether you get where you're going and whether or not it's at all pleasant getting there. Why be rude? It never helps.

  11. This is a nice blog message, I will keep this idea in my mind. If you add more video and pictures because it helps understanding ๐Ÿ™‚ ml Messalina.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén