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It is a symptom of the age we live in that a JetBlue flight attendant who scolded a passenger over the plane’s intercom before grabbing two beers and sliding down the plane’s emergency chute became an overnight celebrity. Thousands of Internet bloggers and some newspaper columnists see Steven Slater, 38, as America’s new folk hero.
But he is not.
The Belle Harbor resident is facing criminal charges. At the moment, he appears to be enjoying his newfound celebrity.
Shortly after the JetBlue airliner landed, Slater launched an obscenity-laced tirade at a passenger he said had offended him before the plane took off. He claims the woman argued with him about her carry-on luggage. When she opened the door of the overhead compartment, her luggage fell out and reportedly hit him in the head, leaving a bloody gash. The details about what led up to this are being investigated by the authorities and JetBlue.
This might have been a funny scene in a movie, but there is nothing amusing about what Slater did. The standard for behavior on an airliner, whether on the ground or in the air, is high. Passengers have gone to jail for far less egregious actions. The standard for airline employees must be higher.
Nevertheless, it is clear Slater has become a hero for thousands of people across America who are fed up with things they are expected to tolerate on their jobs.
Queens District Attorney Richard Brown made it clear he does not take Slater’s tantrum lightly: “The emergency chute deploys at 3,000 pounds per square inch within seconds and could easily injure or kill ground crews or others on the tarmac who are unaware the chute has been activated,” he said. The cost of replacing the chute is $25,000.
Slater was released on $2,500 bail and will be back in court Sept. 7. If found guilty, he could spend as much as seven years in prison.
Slater appears to have reached his limit after nearly two decades as a flight attendant. Fortunately, despite all of the commotion, no one was injured except possibly Slater himself. Although his conduct cannot be condoned, we suspect there are people, including his critics, who know what it is to have that kind of day.
©2010 Community Newspaper Group
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