NEW YORK (AP) — The renegade flight attendant who cursed out a passenger and emergency-chuted to folk-hero status thanked the world for its support and said he wants to go back to work.
Steven Slater, 38, said through his lawyer Thursday that he loves flying.
“His hope is to return to the aviation business,” attorney Howard Turman told reporters as Slater stood by his side outside his home in Queens.
Slater’s career appeared to end Monday when he went on the public address system after a JetBlue flight from Pittsburgh, swore at a passenger who he said had treated him rudely, grabbed a beer and exited via an emergency chute. He was later arrested.
Asked about Slater’s desire to return to work, JetBlue spokesman Mateo Lleras said: “As of right now, he has been released of duty pending the investigation. There’s nothing more I can say.”
Turman portrayed his client as hardworking, loyal and surprised by his own overnight fame.
Slater “wants to thank the world for its understanding,” Turman said, referring to the Internet and media response to his client’s public unraveling.
“This is a man who only cares about his industry,” the attorney said, adding that Slater especially cares about JetBlue, which “has been a fair and understanding airline.”
While Slater’s actions have prompted support from people who have fantasized about making a similar exit from an unpleasant job, some passengers have come forward to criticize him as brusque and cranky throughout the 90-minute trip. One passenger portrayed Slater as the instigator, saying he cursed without provocation at a woman who had asked about her bag.
Slater would not talk about his actions Thursday. He smiled silently for most of the 10-minute news conference, then offered a brief thanks to the public, saying, “It’s been amazing, the support and love … everything that’s been brought to me.”
Turman denied Slater was belligerent and said the entire affair can be blamed on a “lack of civility on the part of one passenger.”
Passenger Lauren Dominijanni, 25, of Pittsburgh, said that during the trip, when she asked Slater for a wipe to clean up coffee that had been spilled on her seat, he rolled his eyes, blurted an exasperated “What?” and gestured to the gash on his head. He then told her he needed to take care of himself first, she said.
Later, after the plane landed, passengers said they heard Slater and other crew members repeatedly instruct a passenger to remain seated until the jet reached the gate. The traveler apparently didn’t listen. Slater ultimately had to leave his seat to get the person to sit down.
Authorities said Slater had grabbed at least one beer from the jet’s galley before jumping out. Turman denied that his client had been drinking during the flight.
Asked about Slater’s references on a social networking site about his battle with addiction, Turman would not comment.
Slater faces charges of criminal mischief, reckless endangerment and trespassing.
AP Business Writer Samantha Bomkamp in New York and Associated Press writer Jennifer Yates in Pittsburgh contributed to this report.
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