Unless you've been in the wilderness the last few days, you've heard the tale of Steven Slater, JetBlue flight attendant who snapped after an encounter with an airline passenger. Apparently, the passenger had been fighting with another passenger for the overhead compartment space and when Steven came to assist, she swore at him and clunked him on the head. To this, Steven grabs the intercom, swears out the rude passenger, thanks the polite passengers, says"I quit", grabs a beer, deploys the emergency slide and slid his way to freedom (and unemployment).
Steven, of course was arrested. So now his attorney, Howard Truman, is trying to figure out his defense. I heard him on the radio this morning blaming the incident on the "loss of civility among airline passengers", that poor Steven had all he could take. True, airline passengers have become increasingly less and less civil...but who's to blame for that?
I've been flying at least several times a year for about 25 years now. Last year, I flew Air France to Rome. It was my most pleasant flight experience ever. The plane was roomy (comparitively), the seats were comfortable, the flight attendants spoke softly and politely, there was plenty of overhead compartment room. On the overnight flight, I was given champagne before take off, a hot dinner with wine (served with real silverware and plates), a "faux" cashmere blanket, pillow, earplugs and eye mask after dinner, and in the morning, a hot breakfast and warm towels to wipe the evenings grime from our faces and hands. And, no, I didn't fly first class...this was coach! I arrived in Rome relaxed, calm and refreshed.
Compare that lovely experience to my flight in June on US Air to Boston. We had to pay $25 for each bag we checked (we checked one, and carried on two..usually I prefer not to carry on luggage...too much hassle). The seats were so cramped, I had to actually contort my body to climb into it, there was zero leg room. This too was an overnight flight. There was no food being served but we could buy "snack packs" filled with junk food for a mere $7. When I asked for a pillow and blanket I was told that would cost $12, (but hey they offered free used headphones for the movie). Since none of the passengers wanted to pay to check a bag, everyone was trying to cram their overstuffed rollies, backpacks and duffel bags in the overhead compartment. And...through it all the flight attendants tried to help, and apologized for the cramped conditions and penny-pinching policies. It was a miserable flight and when I landed in Boston I was tired, sore, sweaty, hungry and cranky.
So, who's to blame for the lack of "airline passenger civility" and therefore to blame for poor Mr. Slater....the airlines themselves. They've turned what used to be a glamourous and exciting event into nothing more than dignified than being crammed like cattle into a rail car.
To Steven's lawyer, Mr. Truman, I would say your best defense tactic for Steven would be to attack the airlines for turning the passengers into snarling, exhausted beasts which Steven had to deal with for 20 years therefore causing him to have a little breakdown. And, heck, while you're at it, I'd launch a lawsuit against JetBlue for the pain and suffering Steven had to endure because of their inane, cheap a** policies. In fact, why don't you add my name, and the name of anyone who's flown any US airlines in the last five years to that lawsuit as well.