By now the story of Steven Slater's dramatic exit from a JetBlue airplane at JFK airport in New York is well known to most of the traveling public. While only Mr. Slater knows why he allegedly chose to deploy an emergency slide, leave the aircraft, and abandon his duties as a flight attendant, it is quite clear that what he did put ramp workers at risk and cost JetBlue many thousands of dollars.
Normally, these kinds of antics rarely get noticed outside of the aviation press, but as is often the case with the airline business, things that happen in an important media market like New York can get way more than the average amount of attention. Overnight, Steven Slater when from anonymous flight attendant to getting Lady Gaga levels of attention. Some call him a modern working class hero for doing what he did. I however have a much different point of view.
Steven Slater as a modern Johnny Paycheck
Those of you who were around in the late 1970s probably remember the Johnny Paycheck song, 'Take This Job and Shove It,' a huge hit about a working man fed up with his lot in life. The song struck a chord with anyone who had had to deal with a frustrating job situation and dreamed of one day having the courage to stand up and tell the boss what he or she could do with their job.
There is little doubt in most passengers' minds that air travel isn't as much fun as it used to be. The stress for airline employees is probably much higher as well, with prospects for future pay raises, pensions, or decent benefits dimmer than ever. Any employee who gets to the point where he or she would rather quit the job and take a chance on the open market than to continue with their daily routine, has a rare kind of courage that should be applauded, even if they give the boss the finger on the way out the door.
However, Steven Slater alleged acts shouldn't be commended, they should be condemned. Leaving your flight attendant job for the last time by allegedly opening an emergency chute when there is no emergency put ramp workers at risk. The money and resources spent to repack that slide and put the aircraft back in operation have to come from somewhere, most likely from his follow JetBlue employees who may have fewer pay and benefits, or future JetBlue passengers who may have to pay a bit more for their next flight.
The difference between fake heroes and real ones
By coincidence, the same week that some in the media are spending time 'reporting' about how some members of the public consider Mr. Stater to be a hero, there is a group of individuals who are far more deserving of the title of hero who are getting much less media, but who are about to receive some well deserved thanks from the public. In San Antonio, the nonprofit group Alamo Honor Flight, which is part of the Honor Flight Network, provides World War II veterans with trips to Washington, DC, giving these veterans an opportunity to visit many of the area's memorials and also as a way of thanking them for their service. Tomorrow (August 13, 2010), a group of these veterans from the San Antonio area are heading off to Washington on the latest Honor Flight trip.
No doubt, many of them faced stress and frustrations while they did their duty. Some faced enemy fire, while others served their country in spite of not having full rights as citizens. In the decades after the war, they continued to serve their communities and their nation in spite of all the obstacles that life may have thrown at them. I'm fortunate to know one of them very well. You can read more about my father the former Marine at AirSafe.com. You can also look at the videos below to find out more about the Honor Flight program.
Honor Flight Departure Ceremony in San Antonio
After reading this story and finding out more about the Honor Flight veterans, you may want to ask a question that I asked myself. Knowing what I know about Steven Slater and about these Honor Flight veterans, who would you want in the airplane with you if there was an emergency? Whose judgment would your trust in a tight situation with lives on the line? Even if those veterans were confined to a wheelchair or barely able to walk? Personally, I would choose any one of them over Slater any day of the week. If you had a similar response, then you know why I think Steve Slater is no hero.
Wikipedia entry on Steven Slater incident