HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – A Jetblue flight attendant is getting cheers and jeers after an on-board confrontation with a passenger. The flight attendant's dramatic exit from that aircraft landed him in court Tuesday - then launched a Facebook fan frenzy.
Prosecutors say Steven Slater breached major airline safety regulations after losing his temper aboard flight 1052 from Pittsburgh to New York's Kennedy airport. Slater pleaded not guilty to reckless endangerment, criminal mischief, and trespassing in criminal court. He's accused of cursing at an apparently unruly passenger over the plane's public address system - saying, 'to the passenger who called me 'blank, blank - blank you'.'
He then grabbed two beers from the galley and made a dramatic getaway down the aircraft's emergency slide. Hawaii-based flight attendants are still stunned. "Sometimes, you get mad at the passengers and you feel like you could do that, but, it's, you don't do that," says one Continental flight attendant. Another Continental crewmember, Ralph Ryan, adds, "You gotta keep your cool. I'm sure he just had enough."
Slater's 'take-this-job-and-shove-it' moment made headlines in major newspapers and is resonating with the masses. On Facebook, he's garnered tens-of-thousands of fans - and counting. Someone wrote 'Feels like a good day to have a few first-class beers and some sliding, don't you think?' and 'if you can dream it, you can do it!".
The flight flap started when the 38-year-old flight attendant got in a tiff with a female passenger over a bag in the overhead compartment. Slater's attorney says the passenger cursed at him and slammed the bin on his head.
So far, she hasn't come forward with her side, but the confrontation has led some to wonder about the high instances of on-the-job stress in these tense times. Surprisingly in Hawaii, issues like workman's comp are on the wane.
Walter Kawamura heads up the state Department of Labor's Disability Compensation Administration. "There's been a slight decrease in the number of claims being filed. I would believe that, you know, people want to hang on to their jobs."
Many may not be as willing – or some say as courageous - as Slater . He's been suspended from Jetblue while his court case continues, and he could face up to seven years in prison. Friends say he's also been stressed because his mother has cancer. While Slater continues to gain more fans – many who fantasize about their own great escape – the district attorney says he could have hurt or even killed someone in the ground crew by deploying that evacuation slide.