Editorial: When flight attendants reach breaking point

Is JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater a hero or felon?

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WATCH THE VIDEO: Security cameras at Kennedy Airport captured Steven Slater's escape from the Jet Blue plane!

Don’t misunderstand us. What Steven Slater did was wrong. Very wrong. And he’s probably made himself unemployable in his chosen trade as flight attendant. But it’s hard not to have a certain sneaking admiration for the way in which he chose to exit — literally — his job with JetBlue.

The details vary but according to most accounts Slater was working Flight 1052 from Pittsburgh to New York when he got into a dispute with a woman passenger who was trying to wrestle an oversize bag into the overhead bin.

Told she would have to gate check her bag, the passenger cursed Slater out pretty good with the F-word being liberally used in a variety of permutations. Somehow Slater was struck on the head with the bag. Not a good way to start a flight.

On landing the two got into it again. Slater got on the plane’s intercom, denounced the passenger, dropping an F-bomb or two of his own, and concluded, according to prosecutors, "Those of you who have shown dignity and respect the last 20 years, thanks for a great ride."

He then helped himself to some beer, opened the cabin door and deployed the emergency slide.

Beers in hand, he went down the slide, walked across the tarmac and into the terminal, picked up his car and drove to his home in Queens where the Port Authority police caught up with him.

Perhaps under the category of Too Much Information, NBC New York reported, "Police sources said when the authorities found Slater he seemed to be in the midst of having sexual relations." Well, it had been a rough day.

And it got rougher when he was charged with several counts of criminal mischief, reckless endangerment and criminal trespassing for being on the tarmac without permission.

In today’s economy, jobs are precious. Most workers, no matter how frustrated or miserable they are at work, can only daydream of joining Johnny Paycheck in his anthem to working class frustration, "Take This Job and Shove It."

Thus, Slater, 38, quickly became a hero of sorts. The Associated Press reported that a Facebook page set up in his honor had attracted 13,000 admirers by late morning. A Taiwanese Web site recreated Slater’s dramatic exit in animation. CBS New York was soliciting visitors to its Web site for tales of stalking off a job in a huff.

Actually, now that he’s a celebrity of sorts JetBlue may want to keep him on as a flight attendant. Next time the passengers will listen?

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