Monday, July 28, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Why does JetBlue attendant's outrage resonate?

The Inquirer this morning added its feature story to the now-massive collection of stories about Steven Slater, the JetBlue flight attendant who effectively said "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore." Slater faces a slew of criminal charges in New York after he cursed a passenger on the intercom over the way she treated him, grabbed a beer and activated the emergency slide as his way off the plane. after landing at JFK Airport The story reports on what an Internet sensation Slater has become because his actions resonate with people frustrated with their jobs and who dream of payback in the form of dramatic action. It's significant to me that the story was published in the Features section of the paper and not the Business section.

Why does JetBlue attendant's outrage resonate?

The Inquirer this morning added its feature story to the now-massive collection of stories about Steven Slater, the JetBlue flight attendant who effectively said "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore." Slater faces a slew of criminal charges in New York after he cursed a passenger on the intercom over the way she treated  him, grabbed a beer and activated the emergency slide as his way off the plane. after landing at JFK Airport The story reports on what an Internet sensation Slater has become because his actions resonate with people frustrated with their jobs and who dream of payback in the form of dramatic action. It's significant to me that the story was published in the Features section of the paper and not the Business section.

What the story doesn't explore is whether the public reaction and support Slater has received is because he works for an airline, albeit one with a relatively good reputation for customer service. Did he generate sympathy because there are millions of air travelers who harbor animosity toward airline management but have sympathy for airline employees? Do they know that flight attendants, even veterans, generally make less than $40,000 a year, and in many cases far less, for a job that can involve life-and-death decisions? Is the support because travelers have also witnessed, or been victims, of rude behavior from fellow passengers (the passenger who irked Slater slammed an overhead bin into his head, leaving him bleeding, according to published reports.).

In other words, does this story resonate with so many because it's about people frustrated about their stressful, low-paying jobs or about an airline worker frustrated with his stressful, low-paying job?  

Tom Belden
About this blog
Tom Belden has been reporting about Philadelphia International Airport and other air travel subjects for more than 20 years, writing columns for The Inquirer's Travel and Business sections. His reporting (with colleague Craig McCoy) on baggage handling problems in Philadelphia have been credited with helping to improve the system. His previous blog was called Road Warrior. He can reached at tbelden@phillynews.com. Reach Tom at tbelden@phillynews.com.

Tom Belden
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