Monday, August 09, 2010

An angry JetBlue flight attendant's dramatic exit

by B. N. Sullivan

The story is all over the newswires:  Earlier today, a JetBlue flight attendant made a very dramatic exit from an Embraer 190 aircraft at John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) in New York. The incident happened shortly after JetBlue Flt 1052 arrived at JFK from Pittsburgh.

According to news reports, it seems a passenger refused to remain seated until the aircraft came to a full stop at the gate and the seat belt sign was turned off.  Instead, the passenger left his/her seat and began trying to retrieve hand baggage from an overhead bin.  After a heated verbal exchange with the passenger, the flight attendant reportedly 'lost it'.  He made an expletive-laced announcement over the PA system, then popped one of the aircraft's emergency slides, and promptly used it to make his dramatic exit. Reports say he then bee-lined through the terminal to a parking lot, got into his car and drove home (where he was later arrested).

The flight attendant's actions were undeniably unusual, definitely costly for the airline, and certainly against FAA regulations.  Nevertheless, he has become an instant folk hero among flight attendants everywhere, judging from the volume and content of the chatter on Twitter, and comments made by crew members on several news websites and internet forums.

The prevailing view:  This flight attendant actually dared to do what so many other flight attendants have felt like doing at one time or another.

Flight attendants were not so much horrified by this event as they were amused and, yes, impressed!   They all know that this was a serious incident, yet it clearly struck a chord of  sympathy in cabin crew everywhere.  (And on Twitter,  even non-crew people tweeted and re-tweeted the story, with comments like, "Best way to quit a job, ever!")

Now, there probably is more to this story.  Who knows what else happened during that flight attendant's trip, or what might be going on in his life away from work.  While the uncooperative passenger's behavior may have triggered the flight attendant's meltdown, it likely was "the straw that broke the camel's back" -- the final stressor of many, which simply led to a sort of emotional circuit overload.

A Reuters report about the incident quotes a spokesman for the Port Authority police, who said that  the flight attendant "will likely be charged with reckless endangerment and criminal mischief."

I'm wondering if the misbehaving passenger will be charged with "interfering with a flight crew," too.

Here are links to some of the press stories about this event, replete with photos apparently lifted from the flight attendant's MySpace page.  And by the way, the comments on all of these articles make for an interesting read:
UPDATE: A man who says he was a passenger on the JetBlue flight wrote his account of the incident on his blog: Just a little excitement on my flight today, by Phil Catelinet  [Hat tip to @businessinsider for tweeting the link.]