Debate Forum Right 08/25/10

Gregory D. Lee Gregory D. Lee

Steven Slater Is No Hero

By Gregory D. Lee

Gregory D. Lee

Former JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater reminds me of “Johnny” in Airplane!

His frolics aboard his plane, while at a gate at JFK international airport in New York City, are reminiscent of the flamboyant gay actor, Steven Stucker. He played the air control tower worker who nutted up when Lloyd Bridges showed him a report and asked him what he “made of it.” Instead of reading it, Johnny made a hat and flower with the report.

Slater’s actions were worse, but in real life. He even looks like Stucker, which reminded me of the movie. Looking at Slater’s photo holding his JetBlue ID card and wearing a loony smile brings back memories of one of the funniest movies ever made. But what Slater did was not funny.

Slater is considered a folk hero by fellow empathetic workers who fantasize doing something similar at their work places, but can’t because the bad economy makes it hard to get another job. Slater, however, threw his job away when he chose to open the rear door to the plane, grabbed a couple of beers and slid down the emergency chute.

Instead of doing his job, which partly requires dealing with unruly passengers, he elected unemployment. Maybe Congress, extending unemployment checks yet again, gave him the incentive he needed.

Any job that deals with the public can be challenging, especially for airline flight attendants. They are the visible airline employees on whom passengers vent their frustration, which results from completely full, late or canceled flights, lost luggage they paid extra to check in, limited overhead luggage space, no meals, expensive drinks and snacks, delays on tarmacs, etc. Slater elected to vent his frustration on his passengers, and yet people think he’s a hero.

Think about the added frustration passengers on Slater’s flight endured when their flight was unnecessary delayed. Inspecting the inflatable slide for damage, refolding and placing it back into the airplane had to take a long while. How many passengers lost their connecting flights because Slater was having a bad day?

Anyone who has a job that deals with the public must have an abundance of patience and discipline. If a police officer having a bad day decided to shoot up his police car, would he also be viewed as a folk hero? I hardly think so. Police officers always seem to see members of the public at their worst. No one ever calls the police when they are having a good day. It’s always a crisis, and the public expects the officer to act accordingly.

The flying public expects pilots to be sober and flight attendants to diplomatically handle unruly passengers without becoming unruly themselves. Getting on the intercom and throwing f-bombs at all the passengers, as Slater did, is hardly the epitome of customer service.

In his outrage, Slater left serious doubt about JetBlue. The unfavorable publicity generated from this event will cause the airline incalculable harm. How does JetBlue convince the public it has well-trained, courteous, professional flight attendants who can hand extremely stressful situations like when a plane is about to make an emergency, crash landing?

JetBlue had to accommodate those passengers aboard Slater’s flight that missed their connecting flights and had to spend the night in New York City. People waiting at the airport to pick up these passengers were also inconvenienced. But no one ever thinks about them. How many business meetings were missed or rescheduled because of Slater’s antics? How are these people going to
be compensated?

No, Mr. Slater is not a folk hero. He’s an immature buffoon who hopefully, will never work again as a flight attendant.

If he does manage to get a job with another airline, please let me know which one so I can avoid flying it.

Gregory D. Lee is a columnist for North Star National. Reprinted with permission from
North Star National

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