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Steward leaves job via exit chute

NEW YORK — Dealing with the stresses nowadays of being a flight attendant could get to anyone, but JetBlue attendant Steven Slater took it to a whole new level Monday on the tarmac at Kennedy International Airport, authorities said.

Here's what happened, according to the New York Times, which cited a law enforcement official who would speak only anonymously.

As JetBlue Flight 1052 pulled — on time — up to the gate, a passenger got out of his seat to retrieve his belongings from the overhead compartment before the crew had given permission. Slater told the man to remain seated. The passenger defied him. Slater reached the passenger just as he pulled down his luggage, which struck Slater on the head.

Slater asked for an apology. The passenger instead cursed at him. Slater got on the plane's public address system and cursed out the passenger for all to hear.

After citing his 20 years in the airline industry, he blurted out, "That's enough." He then activated the inflatable evacuation slide at a service exit and left the world of flight attending behind.

On his way out the door, he paused to grab a beer from the beverage cart. Then he ran to the employee parking lot and drove off, the authorities said.

In short order, his gray two-story house in Queens was swarmed by police officers. "It was like there was a hostage in there," said Curt Krakowski, who was working on the deck of a house across the street.

Krakowski said Slater "had a smile on his face when the cops brought him out, like, 'Yeah, big deal.' " Slater was taken to a Port Authority police building at the airport and was expected to be held overnight.

He was charged with felony counts of criminal mischief and reckless endangerment.

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 episode. "At no time was the security or safety of our customers or crew members at risk," the company said.

According to his online profiles, Slater has been the leader of JetBlue's uniform redesign committee and a member of the airline's in-flight values committee. Neighbors in California, where Mr. Slater grew up, said he had recently been caring for his dying mother.

Steward leaves job via exit chute 08/09/10 [Last modified: Monday, August 9, 2010 11:55pm]

    

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