The People v. Steven Slater: A Lesson in Airline Safety

As a former international flight attendant for an airline that sub-contracted to the military, I will explain why the recent drama going on in the skies is not only inappropriate, but, dangerous. Unfortunately, workplace aggression is not new in this country.  In the last couple of decades, we have seen it skyrocket, often when a disgruntled worker will go on a rampage and kill fellow coworkers.  It takes common sense to realize that no one wants an employee to lose it at 34,000 feet in the sky.  Steven Slater hurt no one, unless you do not count the passengers that may have had to be somewhere and missed connections, or who were simply inconvenienced.


What if a surgeon lost it during surgery and started to play with the gauze or instruments?  This may sound extreme, but I tell you, airplane emergencies are never like the movies and most of you will not know how to get yourself off an aircraft without wasting precious time.  Most people will be confused, crying, disoriented and there may be heart attacks or other medical situations going on separately from the situation at hand.

Stephen Slater deployed a slide only to be used in an emergency and the FAA knows more about cabin safety than he does.  What if there had been an inside terminal fire and the aircraft needed to be moved from its gate all of a sudden?  There is a slide at each aircraft door that costs thousands of dollars to be put back in position if deployed.

An aircraft is a hollow missile moving at about 650 miles per hour at its highest elevation.  Even on the ground an aircraft is a dangerous vehicle.  All flight attendants must check their own doors and cross check their coworker’s door directly across from them before the purser makes a call to disarm all the doors, simultaneously.

Slater, a veteran flight attendant of twenty years, would have been better off saying he had a bout of temporary insanity.  What if some people had of thought it was an emergency and rushed the aircraft?  Wouldn’t that be akin to yelling fire in a movie theater?  There are certain things when it comes to public safety that you just can’t do!  I still can’t believe he found this amusing and had the nerve to grab a couple of beers on his way out.  If it were my safety he was playing with, I would want to give him something, but it wouldn’t be a reality show!  Airlines are required by the FAA to have a flight attendant per every forty-nine passengers.

People aren’t trained to think that flight attendants can become incapacitated in flight, as well as passengers.  In a five hour flight, especially over water where there is nowhere to divert to, I have seen a child walk onto an airplane perfectly normal and three hours later almost die from malaria.  I myself got dysentery so bad that I could not sit on my jumpseat during landing.  I almost got fired for that, even though you could imagine what would have happened if I hadn’t gone to the bathroom.  My boss didn’t care.  That day he made me realize the importance of a jumpseat.  If there had been a fire, that’s one less flight attendant to open a door to safety.

 

Some airlines fly with a bare minimum crew.  Not so much because of money, but necessity.  Storms, accidents and other everyday emergencies sometimes cannot be avoided.  When you fly, you don’t know who is on board.  Of course, I mean hopefully not terrorist, but the person beside you can be a murderer or just gotten out of an insane asylum.  So please, take airline safety seriously and the next time you fly, be aware of passengers and flight attendants.

August 23, 2010