JetBlue Memo Questions Flight Attendant's Story

A Jetblue low-cost airline plane sits on the tarmac at the Fort Lauderdale Internatational Airport May 18, 2004 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images
A rogue JetBlue flight attendant's explanation that an uncooperative passenger caused him to lose his mind and slide down a parked plane's emergency chute may not hold water, the airline says in an internal memo.

And even if it's true, a bad day at work is no excuse for flight attendant Steven Slater's behavior, JetBlue says in the memo obtained Friday by The Associated Press.

Slater went onto the public address system Monday on a plane at New York's Kennedy Airport after a JetBlue flight from Pittsburgh, cursed out a passenger he said had treated him rudely, and then slid off the plane.

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He was arrested, charged with criminal mischief, reckless endangerment and trespassing, and released on bail. Slater's attorney says a passenger's "lack of civility" prompted his behavior.

Slater has been hailed as a working-class hero on social networking sites for the ultimate take-this-job-and-shove-it moment.

JetBlue Chief Operating Officer Rob Maruster says in the memo that the airline is still investigating, but that no one has yet corroborated Slater's version of events. In fact, JetBlue notes, several passengers "have given interviews that tell a different story."

Since Monday, passengers from the flight have challenged his account and said he was repeatedly rude and unprofessional, reports CBS News Correspondent Michelle Miller.

"If Mr. Slater's story proves to be accurate, and even if there was a precipitating event that motivated his behavior, that still doesn't excuse his actions," Maruster wrote.

The airline said "the most distressing aspect" of news coverage is that the danger of deploying an emergency slide hasn't been taken seriously enough.

"Slides deploy extremely quickly, with enough force to kill a person," the letter to employees read. "Slides can be as dangerous as a gun."

Slater's lawyer didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. He has said previously that Slater followed proper safety procedures for launching the slide, and had checked to make sure nobody was in its path as it deployed.

The attorney, Howard Turman, has previously stopped short of saying his client's actions were justified. At a news conference Thursday, he said instead that Slater was upset because he suffered a gash on the head while trying to help a passenger with a bag and was further angered by a passenger who insulted him at the end of the flight.

Maruster also sought to assure employees that if Slater's lawyer's account of the flight attendant's injury was true, JetBlue would take action.

"Let me just say this: JetBlue will always seek to prosecute people who physically harm or threaten to harm a crewmember or customer. Period."

Surveillance video shows Slater's infamous exit from JetBlue plane