Monday, August 9, 2010

Coffee, Beer And I'm Outta Here?

Flight Attendant Uses Emergency Slide to Escape Dispute

August 9, 2010


A photo from Steven Slater’s MySpace page. “Would you like to buy an E190?” the caption asks, referring to the type of plane that Mr. Slater is said to have fled on Monday down the escape hatch.

A JetBlue flight attendant apparently upset with an uncooperative passenger on a just-landed flight unleashed a profanity-laden tirade on the public-address system, grabbed a cold beer, pulled the emergency-exit chute, slid off the plane and fled Kennedy International Airport, a law enforcement official said.

The dramatic getaway was short-lived. The attendant, Steven Slater, 39, was arrested at his home not far away in Belle Harbor, Queens. He was charged with reckless endangerment and criminal mischief.

The contretemps unfolded as JetBlue flight 1052 from Pittsburgh landed at Kennedy around noon — on time — with a full load of 100 passengers and pulled up to the gate, said the law enforcement official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation was continuing but he still was offering the following account:

One passenger got out of his seat to fetch his belongings from the overhead compartment before the crew had given permission. Mr. Slater instructed the man to remain seated. The passenger defied him. Mr. Slater approached and reached the passenger just as he pulled down his luggage, which struck Mr. Slater in the head.

Mr. Slater asked for an apology. The passenger instead cursed at him. Mr. Slater got on the plane’s public address system and cursed out all aboard. Then he grabbed a cold brew, activated the inflatable evacuation slide at service exit R1, launched himself off the plane, an Embraer 190, ran to the employee parking lot and left the airport in a car he had parked there.

In a statement, JetBlue said it was working with the Federal Aviation Administration and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to investigate the incident.

“At no time was the security or safety of our customers or crew members at risk,” the company said, declining to answer other questions about the incident.

A MySpace page appearing to belong to Mr. Slater indicates that he has been a flight attendant since 1990. His LinkedIn entry says he has worked for JetBlue since January 2008.

In addition to serving as chairman of JetBlue’s uniform redesign committee, the LinkedIn entry says, Mr. Slater serves on the airline’s in-flight values committee.

Cate Doty contributed reporting.

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