JetBlue meltdown guy Steven Slater on Larry King and The Today Show


Steven Slater, the Jet Blue steward who brought so many disgruntled employees’ fantasies to life, is granting interviews now. It’s been about two and a half months since Slater cursed out a passenger on a grounded airplane and then proceeded to quit his job by grabbing two beers, activating the plane’s emergency slide and heading off to his waiting car. Slater was on Larry King yesterday and The Today Show this morning to explain what he was thinking that fateful day. He said that he wouldn’t do it over again, but that he probably would have quit his job as he was just fed up with it. Slater is undergoing counseling and treatment for substance abuse as a result of his sentencing for that incident.

When Matt Lauer questioned Slater about the incident which he claims a passenger either hit him in the head with a suitcase or with the door to an overhead compartment, he was vague but said it happened on the ground in Philadelphia before takeoff. Slater denied that his actions were premeditated and said that he didn’t plan it out ahead of time. He claimed that he wasn’t drunk before his left the plane, but admitted that he was hungover.

In one fell swoop, he became a hero, a villain, an Internet meme and even a Halloween costume. But Steven Slater, the JetBlue flight attendant who dramatically quit his job last August by sliding down his plane’s emergency chute after a run-in with a passenger, says that looking back, he regrets his actions.

“At the end of the day, would I have chosen to make the same decisions again? Probably not,” he told Matt Lauer in an exclusive interview that aired on TODAY Wednesday.

“It was time to go — it was definitely time to go,” he said about his job. “I probably shouldn’t have allowed myself to get to a point where I had become so frustrated.”
Slater, who pled guilty last week to two counts of criminal mischief, spoke out in detail for the first time, sharing his take on what happened.

“There are a number of different versions of the story that I myself have read,” he told Lauer.

Indeed, the events of that day have been hotly contested. According to reports, Slater was working on a plane flying out of Pittsburgh on Aug. 9, and says that a rude passenger set him off. When the plane landed in New York City’s JFK airport, Slater got on the loudspeaker, cursed out the passenger, took a beer, deployed the emergency chute, jumped off of the plane and went home to his boyfriend in Queens, N.Y.

The infamous gash
Some passengers claim that Slater, 39, had been exhibiting bad behavior before the aircraft ever took off, and say that a mysterious bloody gash on his forehead — which he attributes to a knock on the head from a passenger grabbing her luggage from the overhead bin — was seen before he boarded the plane.

“The injury happened on the ground in Pittsburgh during the boarding process,” Slater told Lauer, reiterating that the gash, along with the passenger’s attitude, incited him. “It was one of those perfect storms of bad manners and incivility that we’re all accountable for — myself, the fellow passengers, the airline industry that has created this monster where, you know, we’re charging you to check your bags and now all of a sudden we’re not going to bother policing what’s coming on board the airplane.

“The decision that I made, which was probably not the best one at the time, was to continue with the flight,” Slater continued. “I should have said, ‘Time out; I’m going to have somebody take a look at this and I’ll be back.’ ”

But federal investigators who spoke with passengers aboard the flight were unable to find witnesses to corroborate Slater’s account.

Slater claims that the scuffle itself wasn’t actually a big deal and could have gone unnoticed. “I can tell you for one thing, it was not nearly as spectacular as it’s been made out to be,” he said. “It was not a huge event, or I would have left right then and there.”

Slater also says that reports alleging that he was drunk when he boarded the plane are untrue — but he concedes that he was a little the worse for wear.

“I had been out the night before. I will admit, I was not in the best of shape,” he said. “I was sleep-deprived, it was a rough night, and it was probably not the best professional appearance.”

Slater did have a lot on his mind going into the flight. A recovering alcoholic who is HIV-positive, Slater lost his father to Lou Gehrig’s disease and has been helping care for his sick mother.

“I was stressed out, I was burned out, and something had to give,” he said of his emotional state back in August. “It didn’t necessarily need to give the way that it did, but it certainly needed to give.”

Not looking to make a statement
A flight attendant for nearly 20 years, Slater denies media reports that he had been looking for an opportunity to leave his job with such fanfare, saying that his words were misinterpreted.

“That was something that was taken grossly out of context,” he said. “The conversation was, ‘Had you ever thought about what it entails to go down a slide?’ And I said, ‘Yes, for 20 years of recurrent training, we practice these moves … for 20 years, I’ve thought about what it would be like if we ever had to do so.’ It turned into, ‘Steven Slater premeditated this whole thing for 20 years.’ ”

Making fun of such allegations, Slater joked to Lauer: “If I were looking to get my name known, I would have called you up first and said, ‘There’s going to be something going down at JFK, get yourselves out here.’ ”

[From MSNBC]

I have to say I loved the way this guy ranted about how the airline industry has gone downhill. He really summed up a lot of people’s feelings about how inconvenient and difficult it is to fly. He’s got a lot of personality and I was impressed by how he handled Matt’s questions. I would like to see more of him. We heard in August that he was fielding multiple offers, including hosting a reality show and writing a book. I’m surprised he waited so long to go public, but maybe he wanted to make sure his legal issues were squared first.

Here’s a segment from Slater’s Larry King interview.

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30 Responses to “JetBlue meltdown guy Steven Slater on Larry King and The Today Show”

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  1. Samigirl says:

    I love him. I work in an industry where I deal with the public allll day long as well, and basically…PEOPLE SUCK. So, I totally get him.

  2. Eve says:

    He looks exactly like that guy from “Airplane!”

  3. Bonfire Beach says:

    @ Eve – he totally does! HAHAHAHA!
    The little guy who says the plane looks like a giant Tylenol.

  4. Julia says:

    I love him. The “customer is always right” mentality has gone completely overboard. People constantly act like they are doing me a huge favor by coming to my place of business, but they fail to realize that while we love their patronage, that gratitude only goes so far. People TOTALLY suck. :)

  5. Praise St. Angie! says:

    Flight attendants (along with postal employees, cashiers, waiters/waitresses, etc.) often have to deal with such a-holes throughout their day, that I always try to be nice to them.

    It’s AMAZING how much more attentive/accommodating all of those types of employees are when you show them a little bit of appreciation for what they do, and a little bit of sympathy for what they have to deal with.

    it comes from the feeling that your services are being taken for granted, so sometimes it’s as easy as simply saying “please” and “thank you”.

  6. original kate says:

    are you people for real? this guy should not have been “worse for wear” (hungover? – whatever) in a job where in an emergency people’s lives depend on his reactions. what about the ground crew he could have injured when he deployed that air chute? i know the guy was having a hard time, but lots of other passengers probably were, too. not everyone on a plane is on vacation -some of the passengers were probably flying for work, or going to attend a funeral, or terrified of flying – what about their stress? obviously the situation where he was hit/bashed/abused was totally wrong,not to mention criminal, and it should have been addressed. the civilized thing to do would have been to tell his coworkers what happened, and have security waiting on the ground when the plane landed to remove this abusive passenger. it is a felony to assault a flight crew, yes? the fact that he didn’t do so (nor did anyone else) and the passenger just vanished into thin air makes me suspicious that the story is not quite what he would have us believe.

    and please, save the sob stories – i work in retail and i put myself through college waiting tables, so trust me i am well versed in the art of customer suckage. i once had a man throw his salad at me because the wrong dressing was on it; i was 19. and i took care of it without having a huge hissy fit. i am an intelligent person capable of handling abuse in the correct way, unlike steve, who who needs to grow the hell up and put on big boy pants. if he was under so much pressure and his job sucked so hard he should have quit. if i had been on that flight i would sue the shit out of jet blue.

    the fact that this douche is made out to be some kind of hero makes me laugh. what about the 20 year old new mother in mexico who has stepped up to be the sheriff of her town, a town that is so violent that the last sheriff was found decpitated? when asked why she is doing this she replied “so that my son and other kids have a safe community to grow up in.” now that. my friends, is a hero. this guy? not so much.

  7. teehee says:

    Type in “8 most obnoxious internet commentors” on google, and on that list you’ll find “Great Defender”. Sums up the last comment to the T.

  8. hatsumomo says:

    Matt Lauer is super rude in this video! He is interruptive, asking stupid questions, and practically yelling at Slater. Is he beginning to go deaf?

  9. Tia C says:

    @ original kate: In the interview he states that there was no assault or anything, it was just an accident that happened when he was trying to help a passenger fit her bag in the overhead compartment. That’s why no charges were filed. He made it sound like it really wasn’t that big of a deal, but was just one small part of a generally bad day.

    This guy sure has a lot of personality. He has received his sentence, he is accepting responsibility for his actions, and he is moving on. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he does get some kind of reality show. Do I think he’s a hero? No, and I don’t get the sense that he thinks that, either – but he IS entertaining lol.

  10. mexican girl says:

    @ original kate: what town was that?

    i live in mexico and given the nature of how the public security is here, THAT WAS A VERY BRAVE THING TO DO, other people have been found dead for doing something like that or calling the police to report illegal activity (in terms of drugs cartels)

  11. original kate says:

    @tee hee: what is the “great defender?”

  12. original kate says:

    @ mexican girl: i read about it on salon this week. here is the link (if it works):

    http://www.salon.com/life/broadsheet/2010/10/22/marisol_valles

    amazing story that i will be following.

  13. hatsumomo says:

    http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/10/21/young-mother-named-police-chief-in-mexican-town-terrorized-by-drug-cartels/?partner=rss&emc=rss

    Keep in mind though, I thinks this is a suicide mission. The last police chief was murdered 2 weeks into his job, the one before him was beheaded. Meaning she will proly die soon the same way. I dont believe the cartels are going to be chivalrous with her if she gets in their way.And I also think this chick doesn’t know whats she’s doing.

  14. lola lola says:

    I supported him then & I support him now. The airline industry is out of control with allowing passengers to do whatever they can get away with. I hope he gets a job on a corporate jet or some other fancy schmancy kind of flight attendant job. He deserves it.

  15. Ron says:

    it can be a brooch or a taradactyl…..

    :-)

  16. Str8Shooter says:

    Unbelievable! What is it with these ‘he deserves so much…blah blah blah’..crap! If you listened to the FACTS of the story, not ONE SINGLE passenger corroborated his story. Not one. Instead, every single one of them said he was rude, bitchy and smelled like booze from the moment they boarded the aircraft.

    I have worked in customer service my entire life, and had to more than put up with my share of a-holes, believe me. But never, EVER would it be acceptable to verbally abuse people, especially those on the flight that did nothing to warrant his wrath.

    The fact that people are calling this bozo a hero is exactly what is wrong with this country. Flight attendants do not get to throw hissy fits and jump out of emergency doors cuz they’re hung over and having a bad day!!!

  17. Str8Shooter says:

    Praise St. Angie: What about the flight attendants and others serving the public? Is it OK for them to be rude and nasty to people, because they’re in customer service? It’s not always the CUSTOMER that’s the bad guy!

  18. Uzi says:

    Most flight attendants I’ve talked to think this guy is an idiot and an embarrassment to their profession, and don’t understand why the general public hailed him as a folk hero. He could’ve killed someone on the ground when he inflated the slide.

  19. Praise St. Angie! says:

    Str8shooter, you need to chill.

    I never said that what this guy did was right, or great, or that he is a “hero”. I was simply expressing a little sympathy for what most customer service people have to deal with on a daily basis. I’ve worked in customer service myself, starting at the age of 16, and I dealt with plenty of rude customers and never lost it. you do that behind the scenes – vent to your coworkers. I’m not condoning what he did, just saying that I understand WHY he did it.

    And no, it’s not ALWAYS the customer that’s the bad guy, but in my experience, MORE OFTEN THAN NOT, it IS the customer that’s the bad guy.

  20. Willow says:

    If the customer (who funds the employee’s paychecks)are in the wrong, then it is up the the employee to use that wonderful thing called “customer relation & resolution” that everyone in customer service is taught. Sure, the customer isn’t always right…yet, the business would be best served with a workable solution for all.

    He is correct in the fact that he should have had his injury treated, as required by WorkComp standards, and reported the incident to his supervisor. I do like how he is taking personal responsibility in this interview; and, wish him the best of luck.

  21. GimmeABreak says:

    Two thumps up for Slater and two thumbs up the a$$ for Matt. Matt, you can blow me!

    The general public is so rude and out of control. They pay nothing and expect everything. You throw $200 at an airline and expect red carpet service, free gourmet food with your own personal package handler. Well, you can stick it. If you want that, you should pay what it used to cost to get that service. A years worth of pay from your blue collar job. And how about “please” and “thank you” once in a while? There’s an idea! Maybe you’d get better service. And why doesn’t the media (print) write a few less stories about how crappy the airlines are?

    On the other side of the coin, the airlines have created this themselves. All with a little help from a white trash airline called Southwest. YEP! By dropping the price of airline tickets so low that no one else could compete. They bought the oldest and ugliest aircraft, painted them the ugliest colors and hired people who loved wearing shorts and tennis shoes to work everyday and screaming stupid things into an overhead mic. Thanks, Southwest for the mess you’ve created.

    Love,
    An airline passenger who used to love flying on nice, clean, child-free airplanes with polite and attractive attendants and free meals. Even if it cost $1400 to go non-stop from DC to ATL. Ahhh, the good ol’ days :O)

  22. Sandy says:

    @gimme a break.
    ew.

    just…

    ew

  23. Decemberist15 says:

    Listen, if you go into a job that involves any interactions with customers, you need to have some sence of diplomacy. Even if you hate the job, you accepted it and are an employee who Needs to learn how to deal with everything thrown at you. Good and bad.

    I worked in customer service jobs all my life and still do. Have I wanted to cause a scene and act like an a hole to a rude customer? You bet! However, when working in customer service, you have to play it cool. You can be firm and stand your ground, but to go to that extreme? Come on…

    In summary, this guy should not be rewarded for being an embarrassment and an a hole.

  24. Str8Shooter says:

    Praise: Its not the public’s job to kiss someone’s butt when they’re paying for a service. Nor am I saying that it is the employee’s job to do that either. My point is that there are many RUDE people in ‘customer service’ as well.

    Just sayin.

  25. Praise St. Angie! says:

    and no one is saying that you have to “kiss butt” either.

    just be a decent human being, and treat people with civility and respect, until they demonstrate that they’re not worthy of it.

  26. LittleDeadGirl says:

    I’m sorry but my sympathy for people working in the service industry has lessened alot over the years. I have ALWAYS, always, been very polite and I have ALWAYS in return been given attitude and treated like crap by everyone in the airline industry. I had to beg once for the ticket agent to check once … just once if she could look if there were earlier flights so I could see my brother who was in the hospital on life support. Keep in mind I hadn’t yelled or screamed or cursed at that point. My flight had gotten delayed 10 hours in the original airport and I had been in flight about 20 hours when I got to her and yet I still smiled and waited my turn and then she told me she needed to route me through about 5 cities so I could get home in another 10 hours when I quietly gave my sob story and begged her to look once more … she typed what was about 10 letters and found voile a direct flight. Yeah, so much fucking effort on her part to do her job correctly and I’m sure she was tired but you know so was I after being on my feet for two days and stressed that I could lose someone very important to me.

    So excuse me but fuck the airline industry and everyone who works in that acts like just because they serve me a cracker and some tea I need to kiss their ass. It’s a hard job but every year people have done it with less and less courtesy and respect and the amount of money has increased not decreased. I can clearly remember flying 12 years ago and being treated with much more common decency. The same extends to most public service jobs save for maybe waitresses who, because they rely on my tip, have always acted very friendly. It’s this attitude of “boohoo I work in public service and the public is terrible to me so I have every right to act like a little bitch” that has gotten worst and worst. How about we all act polite and courteously to one another. As for this guy he is a tool by his own admission. Yeah, it sure would be a bad day if you were hungover but that’s hardly anyone’s fault but yours. You hate your job, fine, quit, in a dignified adult manner that doesn’t delay or screw up anyone else’s day.

    Also, on a different rant, when you do fly please dress up people. If I have to look at one more fucking teenage girl in her pajames and her ass hanging out I’m gonna shoot myself. You are in public … comb your hair and put on some deodorent :) Thank you and have a lovely day.

  27. Wresa says:

    It’s not about service industry vs. customers for me, no.

    It’s that I hate my job with such an undying passion that I have grandiose fantasies of leaving my job in a way that will lead me to fame, money, and a life completely different from the one I lead from 9 to 5 every day.

    Steven Slater, you are my hero.

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