Steven Slater is big news all of a sudden – the 28-year veteran of the airline industry threw a fit on Monday and quit his job as a JetBlue flight attendant with dramatic flair. In short, he cursed out a passenger on the interim, grabbed some beer, triggered the emergency chute, and got the hell off the plane.
And now, he’s been charged with two felonies, and is facing up to seven years in prison for his stunt.
A passenger got out of his seat to retrieve his luggage immediately after the plane landed, while it was taxiing to the gate. This is a big no-no on airlines, as passengers are required to wait until the plane comes to a complete stop at the gate and the captain turns off the fasten seatbelt sign. Slater, being a dutiful flight attendant, got up to ask the passenger to return to his seat. He got a belligerent earful from the passenger, and allegedly was pushed or hit by the passenger during their argument.
Slater apparently decided he had taken enough disrespect from unruly passengers. He made this announcement on the intercom: “To the passenger who just called me a motherfucker, fuck you. I’ve been in this business 28 years and I’ve had it.” Slater then retrieved his own carry-on luggage, grabbed some beer from a beverage cart for good measure, deployed the emergency chute on the airplane, slid down to the ground, and walked to his car.
In a statement after the incident, JetBlue said, “At no time was the security or safety of our customers or crewmembers at risk.” Queens District Attorney Richard Brown disagrees with the airline’s assessment of the danger inherent in the situation, however: “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.
Brown has charged Slater with second-degree criminal mischief and first-degree reckless endangerment. These are both felony crimes, and together could earn Slater seven years of jail time.
Slater, however, is getting some surprising support from the public. Thousands of people have joined Facebook groups in the first twenty-four hours of Slater’s newfound celebrity, supporting his dramatic stance against poor treatment from passengers.
As for me, I give the man credit for going out with a bang — remind me to tell you the story of the time I left a job in an unnecessarily dramatic fashion when I was 18 — but I do have to concede that the emergency chute was a touch over the line. He could’ve made his sweeping proclamation over the intercom (which I’m sure some parents weren’t too happy about if their young children were onboard) and then left through more conventional means… Maybe then he wouldn’t be facing these legal troubles on top of sudden unemployment.
$20 says he gets a reality show out of this.