Bet you never thought you’d see this: A JetBlue flight attendant abruptly departed his aircraft via the emergency chute after it landed at New York’s JFK airport. Apparently a passenger stood up to retreive his belongings from the overhead while the plane was moving. The flight attendant, Steve Slater, asked the passenger to wait. It didn’t end well. From the New York Times:
Mr. Slater instructed the man to remain seated. The passenger defied him. Mr. Slater approached and reached the passenger just as he pulled down his 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 all aboard. 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 Times adds that Mr. Slater grabbed a beer before sliding down the chute.
JetBlue says the safety of its passengers was never at risk, though the sudden, unexpected deployment of the emergency chute can cause serious injury to bystanders on the ground. The flight attendant was arrested at his home and charged with reckless endangerment and criminal mischief. No word yet of any additional incidents or altercations preceding the blowup.
Ironically, Mr. Slater is a member of JetBlue’s inflight values committee.
Nothing condones Mr. Slater’s behavior, but I think this incident highlights the growing tension between airlines, passengers, and airline staff. The Times points out that “it has been a long time since flight attendant was a glamorous job title,” and notes the long hours and increasingly disgruntled passengers (thanks to many airlines’ policies) flight attendants have to deal with. It will be interesting to hear Mr. Slater’s side of the story, if we ever do. Was this the last straw on a long flight stocked with rude passengers? Has this been building over time? Do we, as passengers, need to reexamine our behavior?