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Travel Detective Blog: Our Newest American Hero

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The saga of JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater is front-page news, and in many circles he has become an unlikely hero.

In the last 24 hours I have received dozens of emails from flight attendants from around the country supporting him and celebrating his act, despite the fact it violated regulations and at least two federal laws.

Obviously, at least for this flight attendant, his threshold for patience and understanding was breached. And it’s understandable.

If you fly as much as I do, you’ve been where he was. You encounter rudeness, bad attitude, bad hygiene, body odor, disregard for basic common sense, and just plain bad manners — and that’s just from other passengers!

Thanks in a large part to the airline system itself, we’ve accelerated the loss of civility and courtesy. No one says “please,” and few say “thank you.” On the ground, gate and counter agents are abused: first by their own airlines with restrictive policies that allow no common sense or discretionary thinking, and then by their customers, who are fighting against that corporate abuse, or bad airport design, or the moronic robotics of the TSA. Planes are crowded. It’s a hot summer. Flights are delayed.

In the air, the job of flight attendant, something that once was a coveted career, has been reduced to something quite different.

Peter Greenberg's Travel Detective BlogHave you ever thought about how hard that job is? I’ve not only thought about it, I’ve tried it, and more than once, in the pursuit of covering numerous stories. Many flight attendants work multiple flights, and numerous connections in a single day. They get minimal rest and do it all over again the next day. It’s hard physical work, and when that is coupled with abuse from a growing number of passengers all the ingredients are in place for a meltdown.

To be clear, I am not defending the actions of the JetBlue flight attendant. But I am celebrating the reasons why he did what he did. In the meantime, I am surprised that we have not heard the name of the passenger who abused HIM. And I am looking forward to what is likely to be a very interesting, and perhaps thought-provoking, trial.

Try to remember “please” and “thank you” the next time you travel.

Your seating area on board the flight is not your personal garbage disposal area.

Just because your bags have wheels on them doesn’t make them portable.

I’d actually like to see the imposition of a dress code on flights. No, I’m not suggesting jackets and ties, but the basics — long pants, socks, and yes, even shoes. Is that too much to ask?

By Peter Greenberg for

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