A Jet Blue FA Loses It

  • E-Mail this Article
  • View Printable Article
  • Text size:

    • A
    • A
    • A

God help me, but I found myself oddly—and not that unenthusiastically—sympathetic with one Steven Slater. He's the Jet Blue flight attendant who finally went around the bend Monday after a passenger bopped him in the head with a suitcase being extracted from the overhead. He helped himself to a beer, popped a forward emergency slide and left the startled passengers behind. In the short space of 48 hours, Slater got himself to the top of the Google news pages and has since developed a sort of cult status.

Normally, I take a dim view of celebratory elevation of miscreants to hero status, but in Slater, I think some of us feel like we're looking into a mirror. In one brief, wild-eyed, spittle-flying moment, Slater managed to distill the frustration and indignity of modern airline travel into a bold act of defiance that led the evening news. In analyzing why I felt like, yeah, I wish I could do that, I arrived at the startling reason for why I feel that way. It's because of you.

That's right, of all the insults and degradations involved in airline travel, the behavior of passengers may be the worst. Think about it. They clog up the aisles, unable to do a simple task like putting one bag in the overhead and stepping into the row. They insist on carting aboard bags that are clearly too large and then become irritated when the flight attendant has to jam up everybody else to get the bag sorted out. I'm always shocked at how many people think it's their right to stuff two bags into the overhead, denying other passengers space for even one. Some dress like they're headed for the gym and they smell worse.

And how about screeching children, whose parents make little or no attempt to soothe them or to stop the little creeps from using the back of your seat for kickball practice. Or the passengers who insist on standing up before the airplane is chocked in, despite the flight attendant's insistence to the contrary. This is apparently what tripped Slater's fuse.

Not that the airlines don't have a hand in any of this, having lately decided that passengers are actually two-legged ATM machines or worse, marks just off the bus, free for the fleecing. TSA does its bit with its mindless, robotic adherence to silly procedures that protect no one and irritate everyone. It may be the only agency in the U.S. government that has raised the inability to say "please" to the institutional level. Do you think they actually teach them that?

Each of these annoyances taken alone doesn't amount to much, but maybe in a cabin full of people, there's some weird cumulative effect that causes things to boil up unseen just beneath the surface. And guess who's going to bear the brunt of that? The flight attendants. They're the living, working face of every passenger airline and they're rubbing up against the anger, the frustration, the angst and the dissatisfaction of their customers every day. While it's true that this describes the FA's job and they know that going in, it's also true that everyone has limits.

It may just be a damn miracle that the airlines keep any of their emergency slides from popping after every flight. Maybe that argues for keeping the chilled beer closer to the door so the line will keep moving.

Comments (64)

I was sitting in a marketing meeting when the airlines first announced the frequent flier programs. We all agreed that 1) profits would plummet and 2) anarchy would rule. People will always react the same way when offered perceived discounts and feebies. Aviation has never understood what business they are in...

Posted by: David Spencer | August 10, 2010 9:58 PM    Report this comment

Paul's article and observations are extremely accurate and his comments are a 100% reflection of my own feelings. As part of my job, I frequently travel on "low cost" airlines to and from home base to where our aircraft is hangared for the moment. In my opinion, more often than not you see some of the worst side of humanity. It's always amazing to me how many people will trample each other to get in or out of the airplane, especially with carriers such as EasyJet (UK). If I were an "alien from another planet" and traveling incognito in the back of a typical low-cost carrier flight, and this was my only chance to observe human beings, I can tell you that my impression of the human race would not be very favorable!!!

Posted by: Keith McLellan | August 11, 2010 2:33 AM    Report this comment

The lady in question was obviously out of line with her timing, but it is a great advantage to get your bag before everyone else tries to get their bag. There is too much competion for bin space and room for every person wanting to pull their oversized bag out at the same time. The motivation was too much competition for overstuffed overhead bins brought on by the airline's charging for checking even one bag. It is time for the airlines to admit that this experiment was a bad idea. None of them can be the first to give in with the current competition for passengers wanting to find the lowest fares. I normally hate government intervention in buisness, but they need to get involved in this for the sake of safety for the traveling public. There are too many oversized bags clogging up the under seat space and overhead bins. The bins pop open even in normal flight. How much worse will it be if the flight gets rough or crashes? There will be bags falling out on people's heads, and flying around injuring people. Everyone will have to climb over fallen bags and under seat bags while trying to evacuate the aircraft. Uncle Sam needs to add one more thing to the passenger bill of rights; everyone needs to be allowed to check one bag, free of charge. Will prices go up? Probably, but all of the airlines will be playing by the same rules. The price of safety will be worth the small increase in the ticket prices, and the comfort of the passenger will be improved as a bonus.

Posted by: James Morgan | August 11, 2010 3:45 AM    Report this comment

Have a look at the baggage policies of mainline carriers in Europe which allow free checked luggage and still make a profit, LH, AF/KLM to name 2. I frequently travel from Africa to the USA via Europe and within Europe. I make certain I do not have a US carrier for the transatlantic sectors, even within the alliances. The passenger behaviour is not an issue with these airlines in comparison to our US carriers. Perhaps our US carriers should take lessons from their European brethren.

Posted by: George Cunningham | August 11, 2010 4:08 AM    Report this comment

I also do transatlantic flights on a reg basis, and I have never been charged for my 2 checked bags on the US carriers I use (USAir and American).

Posted by: Keith McLellan | August 11, 2010 4:21 AM    Report this comment

Paul, Doesn't the Slater incident really reflect what a rude society we have become? We celebrate athletes with boorish behavior since John McEnroe shocked the tennis world a generation ago. Most kids want to emulate a WWF moron. My generation, late baby boomers, grew up with Captain Kangaroos magic words, please and thank you. Using them with a smile on my face only rarely fails to turn a situation positive, yet people continue to believe that their is "Winning Through Intimidation" when dealing with any other person particularly when dealing with what they believe are there minions and they are quick to put flight attendants in that category. I, too, abhor flying anymore, but I don't take it out on those folks walking the aisles of the aircraft. We as a society must learn the wisdom of the ancient adage of the Golden Rule. It works, it always has with 99% of people. We can't assume everyone is a 1%'er. Far better to assume the positive and expect. Even the dour TSA inspectors can be turned with a smile, a humorous comment about something other than the long lines and drudgery both of us are facing, a please a thank you. I know, I've done it every time I fly. It works, try it next time and see.

Posted by: Rick Girard | August 11, 2010 5:14 AM    Report this comment

I try to be and usually am unfailingly polite and courteous in anything to do with any kind of travel, GA or airline. But in other aspects of my life, I need a little work. And I'm trying...

And yes, incivility has become the norm rather than the exception, but contrary to popular belief, it has always been a feature of contemporary life. The internet has amplified it, I think.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | August 11, 2010 6:41 AM    Report this comment

I assume everyone agrees, more or less, with Paul on this - it's impossible to experience air travel these days without feeling that something is Very Wrong.

As far as I can see, most of the problems relate, directly or indirectly, to the marginal profitability of airlines, following a classic 'race to the bottom' on prices and service after deregulation.

The difficult question is how to fix it - given that a return to highly regulated routes and fares is not politically viable.

Or is the current - terrible - state of air travel in the US something we're condemned to in perpetuity? What an awful thought.

I'd suggest something like a government mandated minimum ticket cost per passenger mile. It wouldn't have to be much higher than current ticket prices to make most airlines reliably profitable. And with assured profitability, they'd start to compete for market share based on quality of service. Maybe.

Posted by: Ceri Reid | August 11, 2010 6:46 AM    Report this comment

I assume everyone agrees, more or less, with Paul on this - it's impossible to experience air travel these days without feeling that something is Very Wrong.

As far as I can see, most of the problems relate, directly or indirectly, to the marginal profitability of airlines, following a classic 'race to the bottom' on prices and service after deregulation.

The difficult question is how to fix it - given that a return to highly regulated routes and fares is not politically viable.

Or is the current - terrible - state of air travel in the US something we're condemned to in perpetuity? What an awful thought.

I'd suggest something like a government mandated minimum ticket cost per passenger mile. It wouldn't have to be much higher than current ticket prices to make most airlines reliably profitable. And with assured profitability, they'd start to compete for market share based on quality of service. Maybe.

Posted by: Ceri Reid | August 11, 2010 6:46 AM    Report this comment

Paul - RIGHT ON! It is about time that someone said it like it is. While I try to utilize GA for even the shortest of trips it is unavoidable that I have to endure commercial airplane travel far too often. Regardless of the carrier it seems the disgusting behavior of my fellow travellers is getting worse all the time. On the last commercial flight I was on the sardine can seating pitch, the morons who insist on bringing all their wordly possessions into the cabin, coupled with the oidforous individual in the seat next to me which had me reaching for the barf bag, and not one empty seat in the airplane all reminded me of a bus trip I took in rural Mexico complete with livestock and poultry. Let's ban carry on baggage larger than a purse or briefcase and the hours we spend cooped up in the metal tubes hurtling through the air could be made more enjoyable for all and allow the FA's to concentrate on serving their passengers safety and comfort needs.

Posted by: Jeff Owen | August 11, 2010 6:59 AM    Report this comment

I also found it easy to sympathize with Slater, but for all the stories I've heard about rude pax and etc, I have to say that 99 percent of my flights are pretty civilized. Maybe that's because I generally try to fly Southwest? They don't charge for checked bags, they nearly always run on time, the F/As usually try to make jokes (occasionally even reciting poetry or singing the safety instructions!) and people in general seem pretty relaxed and well behaved... or maybe it's because I generally head for a seat by the window near the back.

Posted by: Mary Grady | August 11, 2010 7:37 AM    Report this comment

Haven't heard much about the PAX who felt the need to be 1st off the plane. Isn't it an FAA regulation that passengers be compliant with crew member instructions? Was any action taken there?

Posted by: Linda burke28 | August 11, 2010 7:54 AM    Report this comment

I could not agree with you more, Paul! Try being a 6'6" man whose skeletal frame is larger than the ever shrinking seats if you want to get to a state of total and complete disgust and frustration. I don't even bother pricing flights anymore - I drive instead, at least until I have assembled the finances for the airplane my wife and I have been dreaming of. I reached the point of no return a few years ago after the TSA added the nonsense about removing your shoes at the security checkpoint. Now that they're charging to check bags, forget it. I won't go back. I will not pay so much money to be treated like cattle being hauled to the slaughterhouse.

I applaud Mr. Slater for having the backbone to say that enough is enough, that rude passengers and ridiculous policies have created an untenable situation. Bravo!

Posted by: Charles Seitz | August 11, 2010 7:58 AM    Report this comment

I used to fly commercial regularly, and worked in the airline industry prior the the TSA. Since the TSA and with the airlines packing the cattle cars, cutting corners where ever they can, NEVER AGAIN, will I submit to the complete insanity of air travel. I let the Travel Dept know that if you want me to fly, I'll rent an airplane and fly myself. Now I get the roundtrip ticket price in a check, hook up my fifth wheel trailer, and the wife, dogs and I head to where I need to go. No TSA, lines, rude people, cattle car and hotels for me, nomore.

Posted by: Jeff Pelton | August 11, 2010 8:12 AM    Report this comment

Fleeced? jetBlue doesn't charge for the first checked bag. On average, airlines have not charged for the costs of providing service over the past decade. You want to see fleeced? Have a look at the bill for your annual inspection.

The bottom line here, amongst all of the indignation and sneering about how air travel is beneath certain self-important people, is that airline transport is cheap. That fact has enabled a class of people who will never understand civility or basic human decency into a world that used to be the venue for people who possessed a high level of self respect.

Look at an airline terminal next time you fly. You have to wonder if the clueless, helpless people waddling through the concourse, blocking traffic, being flummoxed while trying to read basic english signage to find their way, have jobs and exactly how they are able to pay for a ticket.

That said, I'd rather fly myself somewhere, but I'd rather fly the airlines than ride in a GA airplane with someone else flying, unable to relax, go to the bathroom, and get some work done bouncing along in turbulence, heat and noise at three to four times the cost.

Posted by: Harry Alger | August 11, 2010 8:46 AM    Report this comment

Ref the remark on local us trips in Mexico. I would prefer the local bus, chickens, goats and all. There is an odd sense of camaraderie there at least.

Posted by: Donald H Dinwiddie | August 11, 2010 9:12 AM    Report this comment

Air travel has become the 21st century equivalent of a third world bus ride,except that in the third world, the natives are generally friendlier.

For most of my trips of less than 700 miles I find flying myself to be as quick and a much better fit with my schedule. It's a lot more fun too.

Posted by: Richard Montague | August 11, 2010 9:17 AM    Report this comment

Well I think he's a legend! He snapped without going on a shooting rampage or something. And grabbing a beer on the way out? Soopoyb!

Posted by: john hogan | August 11, 2010 9:52 AM    Report this comment

As a commutting pilot for 30 years, I have had a front row seat to the destruction of the traveling experience, and it really is the culmination of the "perfect storm". First was the deregulation act, which was in reality gov't legislated chaos. with little start ups sucking the profitability out of the industry. Gordon Bethune said it best (as he usually did) with the comments "you're only as smart as your dumbest competitor". As in most things in life, you get what you pay for. For what it's worth my wife is flying from Houston to San Diego tonight First Class, and guess what, it'll be a delightful trip. People spend so much time searching for the cheapest ticket, then wonder why the whole process sucks. I bought my Bonanza for this very reason. Then the TSA body frisks every 80 year old grandmother to ensure none blow up the airplane, but are afraid to confront the real threat, and we like sheep accept it. This refusal to "threat profiling" is insanity at it's worst. If it was white American bald men causing the problems, guess what the result would be? This can't all be conincidental. It appears be a liberal progressive attempt to dehumanize the American spirit. Force us to tolerate everything, and we'll object to nothing.

Posted by: Burns Moore | August 11, 2010 10:00 AM    Report this comment

Amen Burns! The TSA is quite obviously the first inroad into getting the American people to accept a socialist police state. The camel's nose has entered the tent.

Posted by: Charles Seitz | August 11, 2010 10:15 AM    Report this comment

the flight is only about half of the time it takes to make the trip. after arriving at the terminal 2 hours early then waiting in line and being frisked and browbeaten you get to sit in uncomfortable seats wile you wait for loading... this alone would put anyone in a bad mood! then after the wait you have to file into a small space and wait more... all of this stress shuts off the human mind.. anyone put through this level of pain becomes irritable and sticky/stinky to say the least... people wear comfortable clothing because they have to ware them for hours longer then just the flight!!! The entire "system" needs to change!!! everyone just needs to refuse to fly commercial until they do change it... treat people like cattle and they will act like cattle... so few aircraft are blown out of the sky that it is not worth the effort to police it...

Posted by: Timothy A | August 11, 2010 10:30 AM    Report this comment

I think the thing that surprises me most, is the level of "eliteism" we have allowed the gov't. They don't fly coach, they don't contribute to Social Security, they are not bound by our new health care, they have their own "super entitled" retirement plan and police security, so they are not inconvienced by their madated regulations. Once had a very loud, obstreperous Houston Congresswoman board the aircraft and through an absolute hissy fit because the Flight Attendant would not upgrade her to First Class. She bought the cheapest ticket and then insisted on being upgraded because of who she thought she was. Almost had to call security and through her off the airplane. A lot of very good flight attendants say it is THEIR airplane. I just got to drive. A lot of truth in that, in that they really set the tone in the back. Once had a cranky irritable gentlemen get on the airplane and say to the FA, "do you know who I am?". She sweetly said no, but if he looked in his walot he would find a small plastic card with his name and picture on it. Completely defused the anger, and everybody laughed.

Posted by: Burns Moore | August 11, 2010 10:46 AM    Report this comment

I think we've forgotten what the airlines have become. Forget luxury - those days were gone with deregulation - think inexpensive public transportation. Kerosene-fueled greyhound buses, subways, that's today's airline industry.

Posted by: Josh Johnson | August 11, 2010 11:04 AM    Report this comment

What I don't understand is why he was arrested and why she wasn't since she caused it and assulted him. Nothing that he did was criminal, maybe enough to get him fired but not arrested. She is guilty of assult and disturbing the peace. She should be black listed from flying by the FAA. Where is the justice?

Posted by: Don Thun | August 11, 2010 11:50 AM    Report this comment

Very good question, but the companies don't want to to prosecute since it leaves a bad impression. I know what you'll say, but I can't think of a single instance where the company moved ahead and pressed for prosecution. She'll probably end up with a couple of free tickets to console her wounded pride. After all, in the new group think, we're all victims.

Posted by: Burns Moore | August 11, 2010 11:56 AM    Report this comment

Love the humorous example Burns Moore gave...but I'd bet that was some time ago. I sense, and others do too, that if Slater would have used a similar, humorous, diffusing retort to the obtuse pax, he would have received an fu or maybe something worse. For me, that is the most important idea to this thread. Maybe Slater, and many of us sense, or sometimes know that treating people with humor or skillful awareness nowadays can get one killed... or less - Had a guy at a D-backs game recently barking out profanities and boorishness threaten me and follow me, unknowingly to him at the time, right to the security cop because I, as tactfully and nicely as I could, asked him to watch his language around the dozens of kids within earshot.

Signs indicate to me we may be crossing a line in society we may have a tough time reconciling. Even stocking up on beer won't help this movement IMHO.

Posted by: Dave Miller | August 11, 2010 12:10 PM    Report this comment

Congratulations, Paul! You said it all.

Posted by: Linda Pendleton | August 11, 2010 12:24 PM    Report this comment

>>right to the security cop<< Nice! that idea might come in handy someday!

Posted by: Josh Johnson | August 11, 2010 4:01 PM    Report this comment

>>right to the security cop<< Nice! that idea might come in handy someday!

Posted by: Josh Johnson | August 11, 2010 4:01 PM    Report this comment

RE: Moore's comment

Liberal progressive attempt to dehumanize the American spirit? Give me strength! I had no idea that the Bush-Cheney administration, who instituted all this dribble, was such a bunch of left-wingers. Carter may have brought us de-regulation, but it certainly wasn't a Liberal Democratic idea. All the "heightened security" is just political window-dressing to make it appear that we're "getting tough" on terrorism. Their hypocrisy started showing when Elizabeth Dole insisted on pee-testing transportation employees and then Congress refused to have it done to them. As for Mr. Slater, I think he was reponsible for the invention of a new word. Around here, when someone snaps his cap, we say that he "Slatered".

Posted by: steve jones | August 12, 2010 8:21 AM    Report this comment

The photos of Mr. Slater taken after his arrest show a cut on his forehead. If this was caused by luggage being pulled down onto his head by the passenger, there really needs to be some kind of follow-up with that passenger for failure to follow FA instructions. It shouldn't be just "part of the job" for a FA to be cursed at, cut and bleeding at the end of a flight. Excellent commentary, Paul.

Posted by: Valerie Salven | August 12, 2010 8:22 AM    Report this comment

There's a passenger list. Why not note the name of a PAX that cannot comply with the FA or PIC, send it to all carriers, and charge them double or triple the fare to fly. Only reduce their fare after 5 well behaved flights. It's time to penalize the offenders, not the compliant or the employees of the carrier. As far as I'm concerned, the misbehaving pax can drive a car, which will allow them to swear, rant and rave, take what ever baggage they can hold and put it wherevever they wish, or whatever while inside their car on a longer trip. Plus, there is no one telling them to stay seated until the car is stopped.

Posted by: Mark Le Roy | August 12, 2010 8:36 AM    Report this comment

RE: Jones comments Facts are an unfortunate reality for most liberals and again we're forced to deal with a few unfortunate facts: To quote from his official biography "Kahn was considered to be a liberal Democrat which made his strong advocacy of deregulation somewhat unique . . . " and if Ted Kennedy wasn't a liberal then we need to redefine the term. This discussion isn't the proper forum to debate liberal progressive effects on the American zeitgeist, but we can ask ourselves: is the traveling experience better today than it was prior to deregulation? The generally accepted tone is that it is not better today, and as to strength, I would submit that is not what is missing.

Posted by: Burns Moore | August 12, 2010 8:48 AM    Report this comment

Agree with Paul; many of today's airline pax are out control. Another peeve: whatever happened to the protocol of deplaning (if there really is such a word) from front to back. Try a SW flight and watch the free-for-all when emptying at the gate. Re Jet Blue lady: Remember the scene in Airplane where the screaming lady is "attended to" by fellow passengers? Where were they this time?

Posted by: Unknown | August 12, 2010 9:46 AM    Report this comment

Paul Bertorelli for President...Steve Slater for FAA Director!

Posted by: Joe Wenzel | August 12, 2010 9:54 AM    Report this comment

RE: Charles Seitz and the "socialist police state" - Interesting comment, considering the TSA was created during a Republican president's term. That fact is also an unfortunate reality.

Posted by: Will Alibrandi | August 12, 2010 10:15 AM    Report this comment

Back to the airline industry...I've seen a few comments from people wanting to go back to airline regulation. How would this help? I think the bigger problem is that we're now in a land of bailouts and "too big to fail" where any airline that was in serious danger of failing would just be handed billions in taxpayer (or Chinese) dollars to stay afloat. Why don't we let the free market play out and let the weak go under? Southwest doesn't seem to be hurting too much and they're not charging for checked luggage.

Posted by: Charles Seitz | August 12, 2010 10:34 AM    Report this comment

That's annoying...the first half of my comment got deleted...

RE: Will Alibrandi - I never said I was in the R or D camp, nor that I was a big GWB fan. Some of his admin was good, some not so much. Out of control spending = bad. Police state tactics = bad. Killing the bad guys = good. I think a Gore administration would have been a total disaster after 9/11 and personal liberty would have taken a lot more black eyes than it did. And now we're faced with the situation of TARP, healthcare takeover, financial "reform", and continued expansion of the federal gov't to where almost 80% of the economy is now under the regulatory or direct spending control of the executive branch, led by a bunch of folks who are avowed Marxists. All you have to do is look at their pasts, their writings, and their personal associations to discern their beliefs. Also, almost 50% of the US workforce is employed by government at one level or another. At what point are we no longer a republic with a capitalist economy and are instead a "people's republic" with a command economy and socialist regime?

Now back to airlines...

Posted by: Charles Seitz | August 12, 2010 10:42 AM    Report this comment

It seems every thing has to be touted in terms of extreme political and/or religious ideology any more. Bad, boorish behaviour is bad boorish behaviour, and our society is being dominated by it.

Posted by: Dennis McNish | August 12, 2010 11:18 AM    Report this comment

Sorry Paul - might be off a little on my stat, but the answers.com data is 3-4 years old. BLS shows total gov't employment at all levels at 22.5million out of 130million workers for just over 17%. That number has DOUBLED in the last 4 years. That's still a rather astounding percentage to be employed directly by the government (and I'm one of them, for full disclosure, working for a public university). And the latest stats show that non-military federal employees frequently make more money for the same jobs than their private sector peers. That's just irresponsible use of taxpayer funds. I can tell you that as a state employee, I make about 2/3 of my private sector peers.

What BLS doesn't show are gov't contractors and those dependent on gov't spending for their employment. Add up all the jobs funded by federal spending and the number will be staggering. I would say "budget" but Congress isn't planning on passing one this year.

As for Marxists, it only takes a little bit of digging into people's backgrounds to find that out. Many of the people Obama surrounds himself with are self proclaimed Marxists. The policies they are pursuing demonstrate their long held political beliefs.

Posted by: Charles Seitz | August 12, 2010 11:38 AM    Report this comment

Paul, your link is bad. I'm curious to see that data.

Charles, I agree with most everything in your post (probably not the Marxist stuff though). My reply was based on your agreement with Mr Moore's "liberal progressive attempt to dehumanize the American spirit" comment, which tripped my Conservative Hyperbole alarm. I'd like to think we can keep polarizing politics separate from aviation, but it always seems to find a way into the discussion. (which I have not helped by responding, sadly) As such, I'll limit my future comments to the subject at hand, and save the political commentary for a more apropos forum.

Posted by: Will Alibrandi | August 12, 2010 11:53 AM    Report this comment

I've been following this on the "news" for a few days now and posting this comment there, I might as well add it here, since it seems lost. The woman who instigated this is a CRIMINAL, she's not some frustrated flier, she has broken federal law, namely FAR 125.328, "No person may assault, threaten, intimidate, or interfere with a crewmember in the performance of the crewmember's duties aboard an aircraft being operated under this part." Why is this woman not being pursued by the FBI and having her butt hauled in? JetBlue seems to think it is funny. Was it funny when Ata and his crew broke this law? Flight Attendants are not in the aircraft to be the minions of passengers, they are there for safety. FA Slater deserves our support for not doing spectacularly stupid that brought the plane down. He broke the law, there's not doubt, but the woman who failed to follow his lawful order is, I repeat, a CRIMINAL.

Posted by: Rick Girard | August 12, 2010 12:07 PM    Report this comment

Will - you will notice that the more deeply the tendrils of government work their way into every aspect of our society, the more often an otherwise innocuous discussion turns political. It has become a symptom of the larger problem of too expansive and pervasive of a government.

Another symptom that is directly related to the discussion at hand is that as more and more people turn toward government for the solution to every problem, the worse their behavior becomes as they do not see a need to take responsibility for their own actions. We saw this yesterday with the group of 30,000 people in Georgia trampling children just to get an application for Section 8 public housing. And I suspect Mr. Slater cracked under the constant exposure to rude behavior of a small but loud percentage of air travelers, bringing many of the problems with the current system to the forefront of public discourse.

Posted by: Charles Seitz | August 12, 2010 12:11 PM    Report this comment

A favortie question of mine to ask parents when out of control kids are in the area is "Do you believe parents are not doing a good job with their kids and are not teaching them anything?" Nearly all of them answer "yes". I then ask, "if everyone believes other parents are doing a bad job of raising kids, then who are the other parents everyone believes are not doing their job raising kids?" The point is, YOU are the parents and it's time to face the truth. Likewise, you (we as a nation) have dropped so low, that WE are the problem and we have become that "somebody else" we all want to point to. It is time to realize cheap does not mean the best; we are suckers for tickets priced $50 for the jet, $30 for the bags, $10 to speak with an agent because we love to fool ourselves that this is cheaper than an $80 ticket. HOw do you think Van's sold so many RV's? IT's time for Americans to realize we have become a rude, disrespecting, not too bright culture that desires now and cheap over tomorrow and the best, babying over self responsibility, and bailouts over living within our means. Work long enough as a pilot or flight attendant where regulation forces you to work within limits and with logic surrounded by these attitudes and illogical mindsets and you are going to snap.

Posted by: Rich Davidson | August 12, 2010 12:39 PM    Report this comment

http://www.bls.gov/webapps/legacy/cesbtab1.htm

See if this works. And the other:

http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_percentage_of_americans_are_government_employed

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | August 12, 2010 12:39 PM    Report this comment

They ran together. Try these:

http://www.bls.gov/webapps/legacy/cesbtab1.htm

http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_percentage_of_americans_are_government_employed

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | August 12, 2010 12:43 PM    Report this comment

Paul Slater should get his job back, a bonus, and the Congressional Medal of Honor for being forced to put up with so much B.S.

Posted by: Karl Hipp | August 12, 2010 12:53 PM    Report this comment

He mail well get fired, not for what he did, but for taking one/two cans of beer from the aircraft. That is called theft.

Posted by: Joseph Hazen | August 12, 2010 1:03 PM    Report this comment

most employees would consider taking a couple bottles of beer a "fringe benefit" --but you are right. It is theft. It becomes a fringe benefit only if you are in upper management

Posted by: Karl Hipp | August 12, 2010 1:15 PM    Report this comment

And to add to the scrutiny of the beer theft, I saw several media interviews today where Slater's ex-wife was drilled on his past about drinking and anger; passengers on the plane are now coming forth to defend the woman and are claiming Slater started it all...guess he cut himself too.

So as someone mentioned earlier, victimhood and don't- blame- me- it's- not- my- fault trumps again with the national media, and we have to work even harder to defend our industry.

I think that's why the color yellow makes me sad...

Posted by: Dave Miller | August 12, 2010 1:28 PM    Report this comment

Beer while on the clock as a flight crew, deploying emergency equipment, bypassing security? This guy deserves jail time. This guy is an embarrassment not only to Aviation but to all gay stewardesses everywhere.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | August 12, 2010 1:39 PM    Report this comment

I think the real issue that has to be addressed in context is whether or not deregulation had a deleterious effect on air travel, and unquestionably the answer is yes. Can/should the industry be regulated? Probably well too late for that. However, to allow this orchestrated CHAOS to continue is insanity. Analyze this: Most businessmen want to leave the major business centers between 5 - 8 PM to return home, so what do the airline schedulers do? They schedule all their departures out of ORD, JFK, EWR, IAH, DFW, etc at that time. Why? Because if they don't airline XYZ will, and thus carry that very lucrative market. Who is to blame for this chaotic over scheduling? Not the traveler who wants to get home or the airline for wanting to make a schedule that covers expenses. It's the facility that allows 45 airplanes to plan a 1715 departure time. Stress is being confronted with problems and NO solution. This is what the flight crews and controllers deal with every day. Do you allow the legacy carriers that have spent 40 or 50 years developing a market priority? Or give all the desirable slots to startups in the delusional attempt to level the playing field. I don't know, but this current situation will only get worse until total anarchy reigns. What we need are a few courageous politicians to make some hard and unpopular decisions. As Charles said earlier, these discussions always turn into political ones, and I think it's because Gov't is usually the root cause.

Posted by: Burns Moore | August 12, 2010 2:29 PM    Report this comment

Sure, we all have fanaticized about what the F/A did. We all have our limits, but what about the woman. Not following FAA regulations is in and of itself, very possibly criminal, and interfering with a flight crew in the performance of their duties is clearly a violation. The news media should at least give some time the woman who brought all this on. What she did was in violation of federal law.

Posted by: David Quick | August 12, 2010 3:19 PM    Report this comment

>>I think the real issue that has to be addressed in context is whether or not deregulation had a deleterious effect on air travel, and unquestionably the answer is yes<<

I get that.

>>these discussions always turn into political ones, and I think it's because Gov't is usually the root cause.<<

I don't get that. On the one hand, you are implying airline regulation--which was and is a government function--was good. On the other, you are saying government is the root cause of the current chaos.

This is the dilemma by which small government idealogues always befuddle the independent thinker. To the independent thinker not constrained by passing all thoughts through an ideological prism, it's not a question of large or small government, but of good government.

I tilt toward the free market, actually. I also understand that I get what I pay for and I might not like it. I think deregulation was the right thing to do, while conceding its unfortunate side effects. Re-regulation rubs me wrong because I doubt it could be done effectively. We are, in any case, a long way from making it politically saleable, Marxists in the White House or not.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | August 12, 2010 3:29 PM    Report this comment

While at Oshkosh this year I toured through the restored Eastern Airlines DC-7. All the seats from front to back were the same so I asked one of the crew where the first class section was and his reply was "Back in the days of this airliner, everyone flew first class".

Posted by: John Hanson | August 12, 2010 3:44 PM    Report this comment

What I want to know is this: there are FAA regulations covering the size of the carry-ons allowed on flights. The airlines used to put a small rectangular box on the side of the podium at boarding, and if it didn't fit, it didn't go with you into the cabin. That worked, and it was based on the amount of space designed into the cabin for each passenger's use for storage. Why has the FAA stopped enforcing that regulation? As far as I know it is still on the books. People have decided that they don't want to check their bags because they might be lost, and so they buy these huge carry-ons that don't fit in the overheads or fill a whole overhead and then look down on everyone else or become abusive if there isn't enough room for it and it must be checked by the flight attendant. This has resulted in people being hurt by bags that are too big and heavy to be in those bins in the first place, time and again. I have personally seen several instances of people being hit by these oversized bags, and been hit at least once or twice myself. So, my question is WHERE IN THE H*^L IS THE FAA AND WHY AREN'T THEY ENFORCING THIS REGULATION?

Posted by: Vic Renaud | August 12, 2010 7:31 PM    Report this comment

I can’t help but recall once in 1990 when an FA may have over-reacted. I was a student pilot, quietly monitoring ATIS and GND. “Dirty Harriet” had prematurely asked for all radios to be turned off, though the gate door was still wide open, and both engines were still off.

She came right over, and I promised I would turn my radio off when we pushed back. She immediately reminded me that violation of FAR 125.328 is a federal felony, that she could have me in handcuffs in 3.4 seconds, and that I should go ahead and make her day.

I never flew US Airways ever again.

Slater’s actions were hardly criminal, but one does have to wonder why he didn’t calmly have the offending passenger arrested, charged, and incarcerated for the next 5-10 years, etc. He could also have charged her with felonious assault and battery, adding another 10-20 years of prison. It wouldn’t make the news, but would be justice.

Coming soon: Continuous Cabin Video Surveillance.

Posted by: Bruce Liddel | August 12, 2010 9:47 PM    Report this comment

Paul, you are correct, the logic falls short, but I had to delete supporting arguments to make it fit; and I was responding to a previous comment that these always turn into political debates. My perception is that it is usually some gov't action that precipitated the problem. I am a free market advocate, and don't think you could or should re-regulate. Pan Am had a very sound route and marketing system, esp. after buying Nat'l. Their gold routes were MIA - JFK, SFO-JFK and LAX-JFK which all fed their int'l routes. They provided a full service experience, but New York Air, Peoples Express came and "cherry picked" the profitable routes which depleted the resources to support the system. NYA & PE didn't have baggage interchange, a nat'l route structure or reservation system, but after enough time they had picked PanAms bones, PanAm collapsed. As did TWA. To survive the remaining legacies turned to RJ's to protect and saturate their route system, which didn't improve the traveling experience. So that begs the question: what is Gov'ts role? To promote a chaotic industry with very low traveling costs or set some standard of desired performance. I don't know the answer, but we may gain some insight after seeing what, if any, limitations are placed on CAL/UAL. And also as I said in the earlier thread, how is the scheduling issue resolved. This over-scheduling of runways and routes is the basis for most flight delays.

Posted by: Burns Moore | August 13, 2010 12:50 AM    Report this comment

Slater’s actions were hardly criminal, but one does have to wonder why he didn’t calmly have the offending passenger arrested,<<

In news reports yesterday, the other slide dropped, so to speak. Other pax interviewed said that Slater may have precipitated the confrontation and that he has anger issues.

Whether true or not, that may illuminate the other side of the story.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | August 13, 2010 4:46 AM    Report this comment

I shared this story via Twitter. Slater's actions were clearly out of line, but also clearly illustrate need for industry change. I'm no expert or authority on the matter, but it seems we might do ourselves a service to expand PASSENGER education to a greater degree that exists today. The NTSB spent considerable time recently addressing the "safety culture" of a mass-transit operator (7/27/10; 6/09 D.C. railroad accident). Perhaps it's time for discussion on "airline passenger safety culture." An airplane of any size is not a restaurant or luxury cruise. Airlines can certainly do their part too, improving food/drink quality/policies and doing away with proposals for pay toilets, etc. The 1980's Alaska Airlines commercials come to mind, particularly the 1987 one with a passenger politely asking other passengers for two quarters for five dollars to use the bathroom.

Posted by: Greg Long | August 13, 2010 9:08 AM    Report this comment

@vic In the name of customer service most airlines are too afraid to enforce their own rules. If you inconvenience a passenger by forcing them to follow the rules, they go to somebody else who has a looser interpretation of those rules. One solution could be an industry wide agreement that the rules WILL be enforced. In addition airlines need to realize that as long as they continue to charge for checked bags, passengers are going to try and carry everything on, causing more headaches for everyone. Sadly, I doubt either of these things are going to change anytime soon.

Posted by: Terje Stoneman | August 13, 2010 1:22 PM    Report this comment

As an retired airline check pilot,(30yrs) and also customer service (35 yrs), what happened to air crew personal discipline, on both sides of the cockpit door? Slater should be fired, his conduct is inexcusable. I know there seems to less civility in civilization, but take the "high" road"; in almost all cases the situation can be defused.......................If that doesn't work, call ahead for security. I always supported the F/A's, but I expected them to use good judgement, which was missing in the Slater's debauchery.

Posted by: james knutson | August 13, 2010 4:50 PM    Report this comment

@james Well said, sir. [searching in vain for the Avweb "Like" button ;) ]

Posted by: Greg Long | August 13, 2010 5:03 PM    Report this comment

Lets Review the Facts: 1 - Overweight with man boobs - check 2 - Gay and HIV Positive - check 3 - Alcoholic with previous DWI conviction - check 4 - Previously fired by another airline, unable to hold a job for more than a few years - check

Yep - typical male US airline flight attendant. Lets not contrast that with say a Cathay flight attendant, shall we?

5 - Claims he got a bump in the head on the flight - but multiple passengers saw him come on board the flight with the bump (too much drinking?)

6 - Claims he had to break up a passenger fight - but no, not one passenger saw any of that.

7 - Was rude during the flight, cursed and stormed off during service leaving cart in the isle.

8 - After plane was parked at the gate and passengers were disembarking, curses to passengers face to face and via PA.

9 - Grabs 2 beers (theft).

10 - Deploys the emergency slide at 3,000 PSI, with crew on the ground working the plane - NBC aired security footage of ground crew having just passed under the slide location seconds before the deployment. (endangerment)

11 - Obviously places the plane out of service until the slide can be replaced/repacked. (destruction of property)

12 - Runs and trespasses over airport property to avoid arrest. (criminal trespass and police evasion).

Result of all of the above?

Becomes a here of fellow flight attendants, the flight attendant's union, CNN, the press, other idiots. Gets offered a TV Show host job.

Go figure.

Posted by: Baron 95 | August 30, 2010 9:57 PM    Report this comment

Add your comments

Log In

You must be logged in to comment

Forgot password?

Register

Enter your information below to begin your FREE registration