Debate Forum Center 08/25/10

Should Jet Blue Flight Attendant Steven Slater Be Treated As Folk Hero?

This month, one of the top stories making the news didn’t involve President Obama, the economy, the wars in Afghanistan or Iraq, or irrational statements by the leaders of Iran or Venezuela. It was the story of Steven Slater, a fed-up flight attendant and his “take this job and shove it” exit down an emergency slide from a JetBlue passenger jet at New York’s JFK Airport. The story of the flight attendant’s meltdown while reacting to a rude passenger has made Slater, 38, a folk hero to those who deal with the public everyday.

After being hit on the head by an allegedly rude passenger’s luggage, Slater went to the front of the cabin and blew off so me verbal steam on the intercom system chastising all the passengers. Then he grabbed some beers, deployed the aircraft’s emergency exit slide and exited the plane. It was a dramatic exit and may well mark the end of Slater’s 20 year career as a flight attendant. While no one is suggesting Slater handled the situation well, it does raise some interesting questions about how much abuse from the public someone in his position should have to take. Most travelers have witnessed self-centered, “prima donna” passengers who refuse to follow the regulations set up for the protection of all passengers. The passenger in this instance was out of her seat attempting to retrieve her carry-on bag before the plane had come to a complete stop, in order to get the jump on other passengers. When confronted by Slater to return to her seat, she responded with a crude remark.

Meanwhile, Slater’s antics have become the toast of the online community. Fan pages have sprung up on Facebook in support of Slater and even one anti-fan page launched against the rude passenger that caused Slater’s meltdown. While some online commenters are very critical of Slater and believe that his actions deserve punishment and even jail, the online response to Slater’s emergency shoot exit appears to be overwhelmingly positive. There is now a fan page for Slater in French and Spanish and his English fan page has over 200,000 supporters.

JetBlue is still investigating the incident. They are in no way condoning the actions by Slater. In fact, they point out that the deployment of the emergency shoot, which inflates with a force that could have seriously injured or even killed a member of the ground crew if it had struck them, was a very dangerous and irresponsible act by Slater, who was charged with criminal mischief, reckless endangerment and trespassing. If convicted, he could face up to seven years in prison.

QUESTION OF THE WEEK

Should Steven Slater be seen as a hero or a jerk?

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