Fed up flight attendant bails prematurely

Written by kvfawcett on October 18, 2010 – 11:27 pm -

Sooner or later, it was inevitable and it finally happened — a flight attendant makes an unexpected exit after getting upset with a misbehaving passenger. He may have been provoked. This may be part of an ongoing airline/passenger battle. Nevertheless, Steven Slater, a JetBlue attendant, is in hot water and, maybe, forced retirement.

His actions caused NY Port Authority police to go to his home in Queens, N.Y. and take him back to Kennedy Airport, where Slater was expected to be held overnight. Pulling the lever that activates the emergency-evacuation chute and sliding down it isn’t in accordance with FAA regulations and is considered a felony.

No one is pro an airline professional acting as anything less than cool and collected. It’s their job and people’s lives are at risk. But when is enough enough? It’s been years since being a flight attendant has been considered glamorous and personnel are frequently subjected to rudeness, passengers’ demands, crying babies and “come now, you’re working for me.”

So what happened to cause Slater to blow a gasket?

After a dispute with a passenger who stood to fetch luggage too soon on a full flight just in from Pittsburgh, Mr. Slater, 38 and a career flight attendant, got on the public-address intercom and let loose a string of invective.

Then, the authorities said, he pulled the lever that activates the emergency-evacuation chute and slid down, making a dramatic exit not only from the plane but, one imagines, also from his airline career.

On his way out the door, he paused to grab a beer from the beverage cart. Then he ran to the employee parking lot and drove off, the authorities said.

But the real question ….

With all of the cutbacks in the airline industry, do passengers have unrealistic expectations? People are opting to fly low-cost airlines, which should be no frills. Would travelers pay extras if there were more people to serve them? Would the airlines up the flight attendant – passenger ratio? One wonders.

This isn’t the first incident of what’s perceived to be an increasingly hostile relationship between airlines and passengers and it won’t be the last. What are travelers’ responsibilities? I know I try to be polite and not too demanding. On the other hand, hearing flight attendants bitch and moan doesn’t make me feel warm and cuddly.

Is there a viable solution or should people accept that flying these days is akin to riding in the back of a very old Greyhound bus? Is this a new low?

What’s the answer? Or is there one?

Posted in Consumer Traveler |