Tuesday, August 10, 2010

JetBlue Flight Attendant Outburst: My Reaction

So did you hear about the JetBlue flight attendant who lost his cool Monday morning at NY's JFK airport? I'm sure you have. Reportedly as the plane was taxiing to the gate after landing, a passenger disregarded the rules of remaining seated until the plane comes to a complete stop at the gate. The passenger proceeded to stand up in the aisle and retrieve her luggage. The flight attendant, Steven Slater approached the passenger and further relayed the directive to get back in one's seat until the noted time mentioned above. The passenger proceeded to verbally assualt the flight attendant who was simply doing his job as directed by the FAA. Initial reports are that luggage fell onto Mr. Slater's head, causing injury. Further investigation reveals the passenger "accidentally" struck Slater with her bags.

After returning to his station, Mr. Slater proceeded to use the plane's PA system to curse the passenger in question publically. He then proceeded to grab a beer from the beverage cart, and activate one of the planes emergency exit schutes and slid down to the tarmac and to his car. He was later arrested at his home in nearby Queens, NY.

The story quickly became viral around the country, and the world. However, it didn't elicit the usual bashing of airlines or flight crews. Instead, the public has overwhelmingly sided with Mr. Slater. He has become a working man/woman's hero and a cult of personality overnight. Countless blogs (including mine) and facebook postings (he even has a couple of his own support groups on there) have thousands of supports voicing their opinions. I will join that list here and now.

Now I don't disagree that Mr. Slater should have lost his job, his actions are certainly enough grounds for termination. However I firmly believe that it should have been the passenger who was arrested, and not Slater. I will start by saying that while slowly taxiing on the tarmac cursing someone, grabbing a beer and then deploying a plane's emergency exit slide(s) puts no one's life in danger whatsoever. He technically did not damage company property, even though it will cost JetBlue money to re-fit the slide and ground the plane temporarily (just like replacing an airbag). On the contrary, if someone was to be arrested it should have been the passenger.

Why you may ask? Isn't this poor lady the "victim" here?? No, no, and my word NO. She acted selfishly and defiantly in the face of clearly stated flight crew directives backed up by the FAA. JetBlue wants to minimize the PR spotlight, so they will side with the passenger in this case. However, I have seen passengers booted off planes and arrested for a lot less than what occured Monday on that flight from Pittsburgh. Since 9/11, the flying world has changed. We often forget this, but flight crews have not. The only people outside of the possible air marshall they have to protect themselves at 35,000 feet are themselves. They have no hardened and locked cockpit door or firearm.

Did you know refusing to turn off your cell phone on a plane is actually a FEDERAL crime? Likewise, by refusing FAA passenger directives and physically confronting a member of a flight crew this lady put herself in some very serious waters and she may get the break of a lifetime. Any other FA may have physically responded in-kind out of fear and self-defense. While I support Mr. Slater's frustrations with thick-skulled, ignorant and rude passengers, he should have remained calm. He should have radioed the incident in immediatly and had police officers waiting at the gate to question the passenger and witnesses. Once at the gate, no one should have been allowed off the plane until it was confirmed police had arrived. Interfering with a flight crew's duties is now a VERY serious issue and depending on the situation, could carry Federal criminal consequences.

The next time you're flying, ALWAYS remain calm. Use your head and your judgement before speaking or acting in a frustrating situation. Remember to ALWAYS heed and follow the directives handed to you by the flight crew. They are NOT polite suggestions, rather rules which can carry the weight of Federal law. If you feel you have been unfairly treated, calmly work through the situation and afterwards follow through with the airline if you feel reparation is necessary for your discomfort.

Happy travelling!!



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