August 10, 2010

The infamous beer stealing, slide popping flight attendant.

Ok, so by now I know you all have heard the story of the Jet Blue Flight Attendant who lost it on a flight into New York. In case you have been living under a rock, I'll hit the basics for you.

Stephen Slater was working a flight into New York. Before they had reached the gate and it was safe for everyone to get up and collect their belongings, a passenger started to get a bag out of the overhead bin. He reached the passenger and got hit in the head with the bag. When he asked for an apology, he was called a "motherf--ker". He then got on the PA system, told the passenger "F--k you" Grabbed his bags, a few beers, opened the door and slid down the inflatable slide. He then took the Airtrain back to his house.

I'm not going to lie, when I first heard this story I had mixed emotions of humor and complete embarrassment.
Flight Attendants are a special bunch of people. I should know, I am one. We give up social lives, sleeping in our own beds every night and missing holidays, birthday, weddings, etc. to instead work 8, 10, 14 hour days in a small and cramped metal tube with complete strangers. We sleep and live in hotels and crash pads, eating leftovers or airport food day in and day out. Sound fun? When we board a flight and close that door, we are not only a Flight Attendant but the face of our company and with that comes dealing with the hard, rude and frustrating passengers.

I know that now days, air travel is not just hard on the Flight Attendants and Pilots but also the passengers. I work out of New York's JFK Airport just like Mr. Slater. On a day to day basis, we are dealing with crowded airports, crowded airplanes, overworked crews, delays and more delays... I am going to guess that this person was trying to get ready to run to a connecting flight but I am not going to excuse the passengers actions on this flight as Mr. Slater was just doing his job- telling them to sit down and keep the bags in the overhead bin. The plane wasn't parked and it did end up hitting him in the head which could have been assault on a crewmember. I want to know why nothing has happened to this passenger...

Anyways, on flights, in a single moment I have watched passengers go from a nice guy to a mean and rude passenger. It's when they hit their breaking point and hitting someone in the head with your bags (purposefully or not), not apologizing and then calling the flight attendant a motherf--ker sounds like Slater wasn't the only one to lose it on that flight. I have honestly had flights where I wanted to call it a day. I have been left in tears in the corner of my galley, threatened to the point where I was actually scared and so upset after my worst flight that I couldn't even look the passengers in the eye and say good bye to them. But those flights are few and far in between. I am a happy and optimistic person and I love my job. I try and remind myself to take the good with the bad and I have had my share of amazing "Magic pax" as well to help me out.

A lot of people responding to Mr. Slater's exit are treating him like a kind of overworked "stick it to you" hero. While I think this makes an amazing exit from a job and I do applaude his creativity, I also think that this kind of behavior is better left thought of or in books and movies. I would not have the guts to do what this guy did and nor would I want to be known as the flight attendant who lost it.

Here is the difference between myself and Mr. Slater. Once I leave that airplane, those passengers are gone and I leave the negative behind. I think maybe what this guy needed was a drink (from a real bar, not the plane), a good nights sleep and maybe a few vacation days. It's amazing what a small break can do for a persons mental health. I do have to say that at least he knew his time as a Flight Attendant had flown by and it was best to move on. I can only hope that the good to come out of this is the fact that we are people too, just doing our jobs and deserve some respect whether you agree with what we say or not. I'm sure all those passengers whose flight was delayed or cancelled because he let down that slide weren't too happy that someone had pushed a flight attendant to such drastic measures.

All in all, Flight Attendant Slater, I will drink a beer for you tonight. You did what a lot of us Flight Attendants think of doing but never would! Hope the slide ride was worth the time in jail and I wish you the best in whatever career you choose next!


Dave Diamond said...

I think we all, everyone with a job and people to please, should raise a glass to him... and alternatively furl a brow. surely we think about stuff like this, but who ever does it? oh, and I smell a made-for-TV movie!

Brian said...

A wise man once told me that you can half the pain and double the pleasure of any event, simply by writing about it. He encouraged journaling daily, and I think your blog will prove useful to you in dealing with the stresses (both good and bad) of your job.

Tom Seagraves said...

I think your observations about what happened with Slater are very well put. What ever happened to professionalism on the job? Yes, this person should have stayed in their seat, but for him to pop the slide and leave the plane? I think he is a little crazy.

I think Flight Attendants have one of the toughest jobs out there. You mention that you are the face of the airline. That is very true, and with that responsibility can come some problems. I have, more than once, stepped in when a rude passenger was talking to a Flight Attendant in a way that was not respectable. "I don't care how much you paid for your ticket, I will not allow you to disrespect another human being like you are now." Yes, I have said this to passengers before. I am not a small guy so they usually don't give me any lip.

The airline industry of today is what the Greyhound bus was 20 years ago. I remember my first commercial flight in 1986 when I was 18 years old. We dressed up for our trip from STL to LAX, and everyone was respectable. That was back when I really enjoyed air travel. I am a huge airplane geek, so I still enjoy it, but I usually don't enjoy the jerks I have to sit with.

Enough of my ramblings! Keep up the good work. Maybe someday I will have the pleasure of being on your flight.