Steven Slater: The Supply Chain Effects of a "Dramatic Quit"

Many of you may have read about Steven Slater, the JetBlue flight attendant who couldn't take it anymore and cursed out a plane full of people over the PA, grabbed a couple beers, and slid down the emergency slide and ran off into the sunset. Or jail. Or a lawsuit.

For some of us, Slater represents a "stick it to the man, man!!" hero. I know that I have always, always wanted to slide down one of those slides -- in a safe, non-crash/emergency related environment, of course. And to do so after liberating yourself from a thankless job would be even better. But despite the "Free Steven" t-shirts and hullabaloo that will inevitably turn Steven Slater into a household name/internet phenomenon for a couple weeks, there are a lot more questions that must be raised.

This article offers a response from another flight attendant (who asked to remain anonymous), zeroing in on two points:

One, who is this alleged woman who slammed Slater's head in the overhead baggage compartment? The anonymous author of the article above says, "As a flight attendant, I'm very curious about the passenger involved. What happened to her? Why isn't her name, MySpace page, photos, and family history all over the Internet? If the story most outlets are reporting is correct, this woman broke a federal law--twice. First when she disregarded the captain's seat-belt sign, and second when she refused to comply with a directive from a member of the flight crew."

And two: as passengers, we really do take flight attendants for granted. "And yes, there are many of these rules on a plane, regarding all kinds of things. Turning your cell phone off. Bringing your seat back up. Pushing your purse under the seat in front of you. And it's important to note that just because passengers don't always bother to understand the reasons behind these rules, that doesn't mean they aren't valid. Flight attendants are not making these things up, we're not asking you to follow these rules just for our own amusement," the author quotes.

True enough. What I'm interested in, however, is the disruptive nature of deploying that slide. "While I applaud his using the PA to deliver his expletive-laden rant (not really), and have absolutely no problem with him taking the beer as his parting gift (some guys get golden parachutes, others get golden hops), his deploying of the emergency slide is completely indefensible. There are all kinds of dangers associated with launching one of those slides, not the least of which is to the people on the ground. Someone on the ground could have been severely hurt, even killed, if they happened to be under that slide when it deployed ... Secondarily, though probably less important to most people's way of thinking, is the cost and inconvenience of this action. Those slides are like the airbags in your car: they're used once, and they're done. And also like your airbags, they're incredibly expensive. More irritating, at least to the people on the next flight, is that the plane had to be taken out of commission, at least for the rest of that day. That plane was supposed to go places, people had tickets and schedules, and that was shot to hell. I'm sure the plane had to be photographed and investigated by the FAA and the NTSB, meaning it couldn't be moved until their investigations were satisfied, which takes a gate out of commission for (probably) a day (at least). At a busy airport like Kennedy, that's a huge issue that creates a domino effect."

This singular action slid the entire flight pattern of domestic air travel into chaos -- I personally know one person who was delayed in Chicago for eleven hours because of Slater's actions. Talk about the butterfly effect. Talk about a personal supply chain nightmare! Therefore, I think we should all think twice about the effects of a dramatic quit, no matter how much we may want to applaud the quitter in question.

Sheena Moore

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