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JetBlue's Stress Test: A Peek at the Secret Fantasy of Every Flight Attendant

By now, there's no question you've heard about the JetBlue flight attendant, Steven Slater, who got angry with a passenger, grabbed some beer, popped an evacuation slide, and went home. This just sounds like someone who had a really bad day, but it's so colorful people love following this story. But the story isn't really that flight attendants are on the warpath. It's that being a flight attendant is really stressful, and on rare occasions, people snap.

Oh, and it's that Steven Slater just fulfilled every flight attendant's fantasy.

I can't get much information out of JetBlue (JBLU), as you would expect, but the story as I understand it is that the airplane was taxiing in at JFK after a flight from Pittsburgh. A passenger, let's call him . . . Dick, got up and started to get his bag out while the plane was still moving. Slater told Dick he wasn't allowed to get up yet because the plane was still taxiing. Dick ignored him. Slater approached Dick and got hit in the head as the bag came down. He asked for an apology, and Dick refused.

Then, Slater lost it. He got on the PA, swore at Dick, grabbed two cans of beer from the galley, and popped the emergency evacuation slide once the plane had parked at the gate. He ran straight to his car and drove home, where he was promptly arrested.

People enjoy vilifying the flight attendant for shirking his duties, and yes, there's no question his conduct was highly unprofessional. But let's look at this a different way: Being a flight attendant is stressful, and Dick was being, well . . . an ass. Not only was he being an ass, but he was breaking FAA rules that prohibit a passenger from standing up while an airplane is taxiing.That guy should be fined or thrown in jail with Lindsay Lohan or something else equally painful.

For Slater, he clearly hit a breaking point that had been building for some time. If you're a flight attendant, you can't just snap like that. And Steven had been working as a flight attendant for years. Every day, flight attendants deal with obnoxious passengers -- some are drunk, some are rude, some are sexual harassers, and others just think that it's a good idea to take their airline-related frustrations out on a flight attendant because there's nobody else around in that metal tube at 35,000 feet.

We don't know what Slater's day was like before he hit the wall. The flight was on time, so at least that wasn't an issue for him, but he could have already had several flights that day where something went wrong. We know that he at least took the flight out from New York to Pittsburgh, but what else happened?

Was he on reserve and was called in at the last minute? Had he been up since 4 in the morning working flights up and down the east coast? Did he have things going on at home as well? (We do know is mother is very ill.) Maybe he's broke. We can speculate all day, but we'll never get in his head.

The reality is that the work got to him. I can guarantee you that every flight attendant has had a "Dick" on a flight and has wanted to do exactly what Slater did. Actually, they probably would want to punch the guy first, so at least Steven showed some restraint. Of course, 99.99999 percent of all flight attendants know they can't do that. They just have to put up with that person and let steam off after the flight. Slater just couldn't wait that long.

Will we see a rash of flight attendant rage? Give me a break. This was a one-off incident. Sure, we've all experienced surly flight attendants, but most are far too professional to allow something like this to happen. If, however, you see a flight attendant smirking while dealing with someone like Dick in the next few days, you can guess what's running through his head.


Original photo via Flickr user MJTR (´・ω・)