JetBlue should rehire ex-flight attendant Steven Slater
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Arguing for the government: Mandi Gosling
An open letter to David Barger, president and chief executive officer of JetBlue Airways:
As a frequent JetBlue passenger and a member of your TrueBlue rewards club since 2002, I want to express my deep disappointment in your decision to suspend the employment of flight attendant Steven Slater.
Perhaps in the hullabaloo of all the media and law enforcement proceedings since the incident involving Mr. Slater and that abusive and belligerent passenger, you have not had time to reflect on the incredible opportunity you have, in this moment, to make the world a better place.
This is a critical time in the relationship between customers and those who are employed to serve them. You have a chance to rescue something that is on the verge of extinction – public decorum.
It is time for companies, like JetBlue and other businesses in the customer service industry, to stand behind their employees and fight back against the self-entitled customer attitude that has taken over the marketplace.
For too long now, aggressive consumers have taken the well-intended concept of ‘the customer is always right’ and used it to defend their abusive behavior towards those employed to serve them and to absolve them of any responsibility.
I think it is time for the belligerent customers of the world to see that there are consequences for their actions.
I propose that you not only give Mr. Slater his job back, but that you file a lawsuit against the passenger who verbally abused him and caused him to snap. She must be held accountable for her actions and be forced to pay for the costs of the incident she created.
If you were to do this, it would help give employees back the power that has been lost to the obnoxious consumers whose bad behavior has been reinforced with free drinks, free meals and upgrades to first class for far too long. It would help tip the balance back in favor of decorum in the marketplace before it is gone forever.
We have become so accustomed to this lack of propriety that it has escalated to an acceptable abuse and good customer service employees like Mr. Slater are being driven to fight back.
Mr. Slater is clearly an attentive employee. He was enforcing your company policy and Federal Aviation Administration regulations when he attempted to stop the passenger from opening the overhead bin while the plane was still taxiing to the gate.
He was doing his job in good faith. He had every right to expect the passenger would take his advisement. He did not create the rules; he was not looking to pick a fight or unnecessarily inconvenience the passenger.
He was just the messenger and she decided to essentially ‘shoot the messenger’ and it is your responsibility to defend the messenger. If you don’t empower your staff, who will?
By suspending Mr. Slater and not pursuing the aggressive passenger, you rob your employees of the little power they have left and set every one of them up for increased emotional and verbal abuse.
You send a message to the public that you will not stand behind your staff while they are on your errand. You tell the world that obnoxious behavior will be tolerated thus creating an unsafe environment for all of your passengers.
If a police officer pulls someone over for speeding on the freeway and the driver decides to call the officer, as the passenger in question did, a “mother fucker” for doing his job of enforcing the law, do you not imagine that the police department would stand behind that officer and make the driver accountable for that behavior?
And just like a police officer, Mr. Slater was protecting the passengers. The hostile passenger, on the other hand, did endanger those around her by attempting to open the overhead bin while the plane was moving.
In fact, at the beginning of the flight, Mr. Slater was reportedly hit in the head by a suitcase falling out of a bin while trying to accommodate passenger’s luggage. He knew she was a safety hazard and needed to intervene.
And even in his moment of madness, Mr. Slater never put any of his passengers in harm’s way. The plane had come to a halt before he deployed the inflatable emergency slide. And what if someone had accidentally joined him on the slide? They would have avoided the long wait the process of de-boarding is and he could have offered them a cold beer since he grabbed two on his way out.
You may ask, “Should there not be any consequences for Mr. Slater?” Of course, there should be.
It seems clear to me that he has suffered so much abuse by passengers over the years that he has something akin to Battered Wife Syndrome. He should be forced to enroll in counseling with a licensed professional so he can work through the trauma he has suffered and he can continue to work for JetBlue in a less stressful capacity until he has sorted through those issues.
I hope you will take these thoughts into consideration and seize the opportunity you have in front of you.
Arguing for the opposition: Antoine Abou-Diwan
I don’t believe Steven Slater should have his job back. His outburst, as unprofessional as it was, is not what bothers me; it’s the way he exited the plane. Had he just walked out the door, I’d be more sympathetic to him. Instead, he deployed the emergency slide, grabbed a beer and slid away from a bad workday. His whole exit seems so contrived.
I do not doubt Slater’s job is stressful. I waited tables for a few years and understand how uncivilized and just plain rotten some customers can be. Unfortunately, we tend to remember the worst customers, even if they are relatively few and far between.
Fortunately, on the other side of the coin, some customers can be exceedingly polite and easygoing, making for an enjoyable workday.
Whichever kind of people service employees must deal with, it is part of their job to deal with the good and the bad—especially the bad—in a professional manner. As an airline employee, Slater is in a position to have truly offensive customers removed from the aircraft.
Slater clocked more than 15 years of experience as a flight attendant and was apparently quite good at his job. Customer service positions are not for everyone, but those who excel at it—like Slater—understand they have to deal with undesirable people on a daily basis.
The prospect of having to deal with two passengers on an airplane who are fighting sounds like a nightmare. Getting hit in the head when one of these obnoxious customers opened the overhead compartment hatch at the end of the flight was, quite literally, adding injury to insult.
However, this happened at the end of the flight, after the airplane had reached its destination. Slater was in the home stretch. I don’t care how frayed his nerves were. He should have had more self-control.
I can accept that Slater’s outburst was a mistake. I understand the rage that comes with dealing with impossibly rude and uncivilized people all day long, and I understand the need to vent one’s frustrations.
Those who make honest mistakes deserve an opportunity to redeem themselves, but the way Slater took his exit leads me to suspect it was premeditated, perhaps a publicity stunt. He deployed the emergency slide. He paused long enough to grab what was probably a nice, cold, delicious beer—and then he jumped out of the plane with his beer.
Does Slater deserve seven years in prison, as some are suggesting? Absolutely not. Fine him. Fire him, if need be, and don’t give him his job back. But don’t lock him up. A prison term would just add to the absurdity of this situation.
With the amount of press and Facebook love this guy has received, I can’t imagine why he wants to have his job back. He is another person in a long line of pseudo-celebrities. He might as well milk it while he can—maybe write a book about his life—before he is forgotten when the next attention-starved character comes along.