JetBlue flight attendant keeps speaking out

August 11, 2010 8:58:18 PM PDT
The JetBlue flight attendant who snapped after an altercation with a passenger is out of jail. Now, he and his loved ones are speaking out about the incident that turned him into an overnight sensation.

America's most famous flight attendant returned to his beach bungalow in Queens Wednesday and faced a crush of cameras.

The man who had so much to say on the flight's PA system said little, but earlier he stopped on the Upper East Side to answer a few questions from Eyewitness News.

"Oh it's so encouraging and so special, there's some really great people out there, and I'm getting a glimpse of that," Steven Slater said.

Slater's catapult to fame as a hero for disgruntled workers everywhere comes as a surprise of sorts to one of the jet blue passengers who witnessed his profanity-filled outburst.

"I'm still a little bit surprised that someone would commandeer the PA system and curse on it," passenger Greg Kanczes said.

Kanczes says even though he was sitting just eight rows from the back of the plane, he never heard any yelling between Slater and a female passenger.

He had no idea Slater had escaped via the plane's rear emergency chute until he got home and heard it on the news.

"There was not this dramatic, you know, thing that happened and he took off and kicked open the door," Kanczes said.

Eyewitness News asked Kanczes if he agrees with hundreds of thousands of Facebook fans, that Steve Slater did something admirable Monday, standing up to an obnoxious passenger and leaving his job in such a dramatic fashion.

"All the fliers that had to get on the plane after me you know, were waiting to board, you know, that couldn't because it was a disabled plane, you know he put all those people out of commission," Kanczes said.

Port Authority officials certainly don't see the humor in his release of the emergency chute, which could have injured or killed someone on the ground if they'd been hit.

"This was a bad day for one gentleman who acted in an irresponsible manner that jeopardized safety," said Chris Ward, Port Authority Executive Director.

Kanczes and the other passengers on the legendary flight from Pittsburgh to New York were each issued a $100 credit from JetBlue, which apologized that they did not receive a high standard of service.

JetBlue is revealing new details on what happened when Slater made his 'great escape'.

For the first time, the airline is saying the plane was parked at the gate and passengers were deplaning when Slater pulled the Chute and made his run.

As for the passengers, JetBlue has given them all $100 vouchers saying that is their policy when there is a disruption on one of their flights.

Steven Slater was released from jail in the Bronx Tuesday night, well aware of the outpouring of support from across the country.

"It's been very, very appreciated," Slater said. "And it seems like something here has resonated with a few people, and that's kind of neat."

Slater made headlines when he cursed out a passenger over the PA system, grabbed some beer, pulled the slide on the JetBlue plane and took off down the JFK tarmac.

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Slater's attorney, Howard Turman, said his client had been drawn into a fight between two female passengers over space in the overhead bins as the Pittsburgh-to-New York flight was awaiting takeoff. Somehow, Slater was hit in the head, Turman said.

After JetBlue Flight 1052 landed in New York, one of the women who had been asked to gate-check her bag was enraged that it wasn't immediately available, Turman said.

"The woman was outraged and cursed him out a great deal," Turman said. "At some point, I think he just wanted to avoid conflict with her."

That's when he deployed the slide, Turman said. A spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which controls the airport, said Slater took at least one beer from the plane galley on his way out.

"Those of you who have shown dignity and respect these last 20 years, thanks for a great ride," Slater said over the plane's loudspeaker, according to prosecutors.

Prosecutors said Slater's actions could have been deadly if ground crew workers had been hit by the emergency slide, which deploys with a force of 3,000 pounds per square inch. Turman said Slater had opened the hatch and made sure no one was in the slide's path before deploying it.

Eyewitness News reporter Jim Dolan caught up with Slater as he was released Tuesday night.

Dolan: "Are you going to lose your job?" Slater: "More than likely." Dolan: "Do you care about that?" Slater: "No comment at this time."

Slater's ex-wife says it's a shame this had to happen to a man she calls fabulous.

"It's unfortunate that things have come to this point, because I really do believe that his true love is flying," Cynthia Susanne said.

His mother, suffering from cancer, wishes people better understood her son's reaction. Slater maintains that everything started when a female passenger maliciously hit him with her luggage.

"I think he deserves to be able to have that meltdown," Diane Slater said. "If you saw the egg on his head where he got smacked."

And because of that meltdown, Slater now has thousands of fans on his online tribute page.

Slater heads back to court early next month. He faces seven years in prison if convicted of all charges.