Thursday, May 5, 2011

Travel Lessons From Steven Slater

CNN: Steven Slater may not be a flight attendant anymore, but he's still a fixture on planes -- no longer serving passengers but now observing them.

You'll recall that Slater had just finished a (JetBlue) flight when he told off a passenger over the plane's public address system, grabbed a few beers from the beverage cart, opened the emergency evacuation slide and slid down at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

These days, Slater is living off his 401(k) and some savings while "working on a few things," he said. Much of his time since the outburst has been taken up by dealing with personal affairs, like the recent death of his mother and handling her estate in California.

Slater is also writing a memoir that he plans to call "The Diary of a Mad Flight Attendant."

Slater recently spoke with CNN.com about the lessons he learned during his 20-year career in the air and in the past few months while sitting in the passenger seat rather than the jump seat.

1. Carry-ons are still a nightmare

"A lot of the headaches that the passengers and crews deal with are nightmare situations that the airlines have created," Slater said. "The most glaring example of that to me is that we charge passengers to check their luggage so of course common sense would say you try to bring on whatever you can, myself included."

2. Security process needs to be improved

"It seems you see a lot of the [temper] flare-ups at security. People are faced, to my mind, some kind of really ridiculous requirements," Slater said.

"When you see children going through these full-body scanners -- if I'm a parent and I'm sending my 5-year old through that, that's offensive to me. That bothers me. It bothers me to see any child go through that."

3. Airline industry is in a sad state of affairs

"I came from TWA, and we were in 747s going to Europe carving Chateaubriand in the aisles and pouring Dom Perignon," Slater said. "We're now throwing Cheetos in the back of commuter planes. It's really tragic."

4. Flight attendants have their limits

"I think it's OK to set boundaries. Everyone wants to be a professional, you want to be courteous, you want to be empathetic and believe me, flight attendants get it," Slater said. "We're hired to be compassionate people, we're there because we do care, we understand that people are going to weddings and funerals and they're flying for often very not pleasant experiences and there is that compassion. But it's not OK to be abused."

5. It's possible to make the experience less stressful

"I see everybody trying to do the best they can with a really bad situation," Slater said. "I try to stay as flexible as possible. I give myself a lot of time. I try to get there early, I try to fly the day before the event -- if I have a meeting on a Friday, I make sure I fly on a Thursday."

"I never rely on the airline to provide what they say they're going to."

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