A rogue JetBlue flight attendant's explanation that an uncooperative passenger caused him to melt down and slide down a parked plane's emergency chute may not hold water, the airline says in an internal memo.
And even if it's true, a bad day at work is no excuse for flight attendant Steven Slater's behavior, JetBlue says in the memo obtained Friday by The Associated Press.
Slater went onto the public address system Monday on a plane at New York's Kennedy Airport after a JetBlue flight from Pittsburgh, cursed out a passenger he said had treated him rudely, and then slid off the plane.
He was arrested, charged with criminal mischief, reckless endangerment and trespassing, and released on bail. Slater's attorney says a passenger's "lack of civility" prompted his behavior.
JetBlue Chief Operating Officer Rob Maruster says in the memo that the airline is still investigating, but that no one has yet corroborated Slater's version of events. In fact, JetBlue notes, several passengers "have given interviews that tell a different story."
"If Mr. Slater's story proves to be accurate, and even if there was a precipitating event that motivated his behavior, that still doesn't excuse his actions," Maruster wrote.
Slater has been hailed as a working-class hero on social networking sites for the ultimate take-this-job-and-shove-it moment.
The airline said "the most distressing aspect" of news coverage is that the danger of deploying an emergency slide hasn't been taken seriously enough.
"Slides deploy extremely quickly, with enough force to kill a person," the letter to employees read. "Slides can be as dangerous as a gun."
Unruly Passenger Forces Diversion
Also Friday, JetBlue announced a flight from Boston to the Dominican Republic had to land in the Washington, D.C., area because of an unruly passenger.
The company says in a statement that Flight 691 was diverted to Washington-Dulles International Airport on Friday afternoon because of what it described as an unruly customer.
The Transportation Safety Administration and local law enforcement were notified and took the passenger into custody.
No one was hurt and the flight was expected to continue to Santo Domingo just before 2 p.m.
A spokesman for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority says he did not know why the flight had been diverted.