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tv   Larry King Live  CNN  October 27, 2010 12:00am-1:00am EDT

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>> larry: tonight, steven slater exclusive. the flight attendant who bailed out of a jetblue plane. and his job with a beer in hand opens up for the first time publicly right here about that infamous exit.
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folk hero deserves our sympathy or a felon who should be in jail? what really happened on that flight that day? he's telling his story next on "larry king live." good evening. steven slater is the former jetblue flight attendant who caused a sensation this summer after he made an emergency chute exit at new york's jfk. he'll be giving us his account of what happened that day. it's great to welcome you. thanks for coming here. >> thank you for having me, larry. >> larry: let's go back. how are you doing, first? >> i'm okay. it's been a whirlwind. life is crazy. it's very different than it was on the morning of august 9th, but i'm getting by, thank you. >> larry: and you are appropriately wearing blue. >> i am. >> larry: i like the look. let's go through it step by step. how long have you been with jetblue? >> just under three years. >> larry: before that? >> 20-year flight attendant.
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i was in my 20th year. i'd been with twa and delta airlines as well. made a career out of it. >> larry: and jetblue was -- how long had hay been in business when you joined them? >> they had been about seven, eight years at that time. >> so ten-year airline? >> just about ten years. >> larry: you pled guilty to two counts of attempted criminal mischief in connection with that august 9th emergency chute. why did you plea? >> you know, i don't look very good in horizontal stripes. we found a way, i believe, that my attorneys were able to do a beautiful job of seeing that justice was served as needed to be, while also balancing my needs as an individual. i did accept accountability. i've made my apologies. however, i don't know that it was necessarily a seven-year in riker's island-type incident. fortunately, we were able to come to an understanding. >> larry: and you avoided prison time. you have to undergo counseling and substance abuse treatment. for what substance? >> i am a recovering alcoholic. uh-huh.
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>> larry: were you alcoholically involved that day? >> you know, i don't think you end up in a substance abuse program or alcohol court without some purpose. i will admit i have accepted responsibility for the fact that i did have a sip or two. i was in no way intoxicated or impaired at the time of the incident. this was just the end of the rope. but, yes, i have acknowledged that. >> larry: what's happened? let's go through it. jetblue, the flight originated in pittsburgh. was that -- what time of day? was that your first flight? >> no, we'd already flown two other flights this day. this was a very typical trip for us in that it was a 4:30 wake-up call. probably a 5:15, 5:30 van. we started in portland, maine, that morning, having been there the night before. flew to new york and then we had gone out to pittsburgh for a very short turnaround. we didn't even have time to get off and have a bite as is generally the case. i think we were probably there all of 29, maybe 30 minutes and then we were to work back to new york's kennedy that morning. >> larry: same pilot same --
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>> same crew. it was a three-day trip. >> larry: you live here in los angeles? >> i spend my time between new york and los angeles. i was based at jfk at the time but taking care of my mother here in thousand oaks, california, at the time. >> larry: what happened on that leg of the flight? that was the last leg, right? >> it was the last leg of a three-day trip. we were so looking forward to getting home. it was fast. furious. we were full. we were running late, as is so often the case. any more, the flight attendants are at many carriers charged with cleaning the aircraft. we had landed. we had to do our full cabin cleaning and prepare the aircraft for the next round of passengers under the time crunch. as is so often the case now with, we're asking people to pay to check their luggage, et cetera, people are going through security lines that are ridiculously long anymore. it was a stressful, rushed,
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flight full of harried travelers and a harried crew. and it started out kind of not on a great note. >> larry: were you the chief attendant? >> i was. i was the number one flight attendant that day. >> larry: was it first class and -- >> this one is all economy. all economy class. 100 coach passengers. >> larry: you were up front? >> i was. >> larry: what happened? >> as we boarded the aircraft, the first few people started to trickle on. shortly down came the stampede. and carry-on space is always at a premium. and on this, it was a smaller aircraft. two seats and two seats with a center aisle. very small bins. very large bags. for whatever reason there wasn't a great monitoring of luggage coming down the jetway that day and some people were struggling. there was a customer -- two customers who were sort of jockeying for position in the overhead compartments and i could see that the bag in question was far larger than anything that should have been on that aircraft at the time. and it would have required a
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different arrangement to get it on board. so i went back to assist in getting the items properly stowed and -- >> larry: this was in the back of the plane? >> this was about row six or seven. still towards the front. >> larry: a male or female? >> there was a lady and gentlemen both vying for the same spot at the same time. she was becoming frustrated because she couldn't wedge this ten-pound piece into this five-pound bin. >> larry: she had the bigger bag? >> yes. >> larry: what happened? >> i approached her to see if we could shift the bag 90 degrees and get it in. she was pulling and pushing and pulling down the bin at the same time. it happened in the midst of this, i got smacked across the forehead here. whether it was the bin or the bag, i'm not entirely sure. might have been both. a real quick -- i had a pretty good cut on my forehead at the time. hindsight being 20/20, if i had it to do again i probably should have said we're going to take a time-out. i'm going to have somebody take a look at this and maybe somebody needs to talk to these people and see if we can't civilize this a little bit.
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>> larry: you were ticked? >> i was. i was frustrated. i was angry. >> larry: mad at the lady? >> i was angry at all of it. i call it the perfect storm of bad manners that created this situation, including my own. we were -- it was very typical of what we see anymore. we're stressed. flight attendants are working 12, 14-hour duty days often with as little as six to eight hours rest the night before. it was the third leg of the day. it was the third day of a three-day trip. passengers are stressed. we know what trials and tribulations it's become to travel. and i think it all just kind of came to a head at that time. >> larry: so the plane took off? >> we did take off. i said it's 48 minutes. how bad can it be. home stretch? >> larry: did you attend to your cut? >> no, actually at that particular moment i was just trying to get us on the road. >> larry: so you didn't put a band-aid on. it was bleeding? >> i did go and cleanse it and bandage it up appropriately.
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but -- >> larry: what happened during the flight? >> the flight was routine. it was fast. it was rough. you know, we did as much of the service as we could. we did have to -- >> larry: turbulence? >> a bit turbulent on the way up ? and on the way down. nothing terribly memorable. it was a typical late afternoon -- well, late morning commuter run from pittsburgh to kennedy. then you land. >> we landed in new york. and it was at that time on the taxiway that a customer did stand up to retrieve their belongings. not that untypical, unfortunately. everyone is in a rush. everyone wants to -- >> larry: this is before you got to the gate? >> correct. this is taxiing in to the terminal. we handled that. i got that passenger seated. the other flight attendant came from the back and together we explained please remain seated for just a few minutes longer. when we did get to the actual gate and the jetway was brought to the aircraft, that's when the passenger with the large bag, which we had had to check as a matter of fact.
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it also did not fit in the end, came to the front door and began to sort of argue about where she could collect the baggage and why wasn't it available there at that moment. i explained it could be met at carousel what have you inside and apparently that wasn't good enough because i did receive the verbal tirade, and there were some names that were used towards me that i didn't appreciate. >> larry: on both sides? >> i got the names said to me. now at that time i had the p.a. microphone in my hand because i was about to make an announcement to the passengers that i could collect their baggage at what have you carousel. and it was in my hand. i took a moment, turned into the cockpit to sort of compose myself and failed. and that is when i said to those that have been respectful, appreciated. however, to the passenger who called me a mother so and so, here's to you.
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it's been 20 years and i'm done. >> larry: and then where did you get the chute to go down? >> in that moment, i was standing at the front of the aircraft and the jetway was up. the passengers were just starting to come up the aisle. and i just was in this state and people ask me what were you thinking? what were you thinking? that moment? well, i was in two completely opposite places at once. i was in a state of pure rage and anger. and i also had this moment of just serenity and clarity when it occurred to me that i didn't need to do this anymore. i saw this golden ray of sunshine just through that little porthole and i thought to myself you know, my car is just right across that ramp. and the -- it's a beautiful beach day and i think it's time to go and that's a quick way to do it. didn't stop. didn't stop and think to myself, is that an appropriate way to leave a 20-year career? obviously not.
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but in that moment, that's just where it took me. so i gave it a very thorough look out the window. we're taught for 20 years of training -- we're told in training that you assess your inside conditions and assess the outside conditions, which is looking through that window. and then you activate your exit. well, i had seen enough of my inside conditions. i knew i was done that with today. took a good look outside and out i went. >> larry: we'll be back in a moment. "larry king live" reached out to jetblue for a statement about steven slater in tonight's interview. the company gave this response. mr. slater is no longer employed with jetblue and out of respect for his privacy, we have no further comment. back after this. tdd# 1-800-345-2550
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>> larry: going over some things. your first attorney, court-appointed at the time said you had cut your head before the flight and no one has been able to find the woman who had the big piece of baggage that hit your head. so -- >> no, the cut was early on in the boarding process. it was not before the flight. it was before the majority of the customers were on board the aircraft. >> larry: there was a woman trying to get a bag. through? >> yes.
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>> larry: and it was that that hit you. are you surprised that woman hasn't come forward? >> a customer who were involved in that altercation would face a $25,000 fine by the faa. i don't imagine them stepping forward for that. >> larry: "the new york post" reported that a brooklyn couple, the second and third people to preboard claim that your forehead was bleeding when they got on the plane. >> i couldn't tell you aut them. that's the first i've heard of them. i can tell you i was struck early on in the boarding process by this oversized piece of luggage while these customers struggled for -- >> larry: several passengers interviewed after the incident said you had been rude to them during the flight. how do you respond? >> i wouldn't deny that one bit. they got me at a bad, bad time. i had just been hit in the head. i was in pain. i was uncomfortable. i was angry. i was frustrated. i pride myself on being a professional but i'm sure my service was less than stellar that day. >> larry: how did you deploy the chute? >> how? you simply arm the door and open it up. it's an automatic mechanism. just take a look out the window, open the door and it just simply folds out and inflates. >> larry: have you ever had to inflate a chute before?
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>> no, we do every year in flight attendant training. you are required to perform actual evacuation drills where you simulate what you would do. you might have to do that six or seven times a day but, no, by the grace of god, i've never had to do it in an actual emergency. >> larry: did you have a couple of beers? >> i took them with me. absolutely. >> larry: so you consumed them during the flight? >> no. >> larry: just came out with them? >> i had a beverage, as i mentioned earlier. i did indeed. >> larry: what were you thinking, steven, going down the chute? >> i was just thinking, i'm free. i'm finally free. it was so fast. so quick. but i got the bottom of this wonderful warm sunlight out there. i felt a weight off my shoulders like i was back in charge of my own life. at the moment that's how it felt. >> larry: authorities say that deploying the chute could have injured or killed someone on the tarmac. is that true? >> it is. it is. that's why we're so cognizant of taking a thorough evaluation of who is out there by looking out those portholes.
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>> larry: some reporters caught up with an underground manhattan parking garage a couple of days after the incident who said you thought about pulling the chute for 20 years. is that true? >> that quote, and i know that's the one by mr. ross, that was something taken completely out of context. it was in an elevator and i was asked if i had ever thought about what it would be like to have to go down the chute. i explained that we've had -- i've had 20 years of being prepared for that moment. it was not that it was a premeditated exit strategy of my job. >> larry: what happened to the beer? >> it was a nice hot beach day and a couple of cold brews. >> larry: consumed it afterwards? >> they were used when i got home. >> larry: on approach? >> on approach to my -- into my home. into my living room, yes. >> larry: we'll get to the arrest of steven after this. there's a moment where everything comes together. where there's magic. and you now understand what nature's been hiding. ♪
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>> larry: steven was arrested at his home by port authority officials hours after the episode. he was arraigned the following day on reckless endangerment, released in $2500 bail. did you expect to be arrested? >> i didn't. no in all honesty, i knew there would be an internal issue with
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my former employer. i didn't -- no, i didn't think beyond the moment. i didn't anticipate that. >> larry: when did it get a headline? the next day? was there an immediate big response to this? >> you know, i don't know. i was in jail. i had no access to information. >> larry: that night had anybody called you? no media called you? >> i was hearing from the police officers that all of this was going on outside the jail. i had no access to information. no television. obviously no radio. i did not know this was becoming such an interesting case. >> larry: where did you go after you landed? >> i went home. >> larry: drove home? >> i drove myself right home. went to the employees parking lot, went straight home. it was maybe an hour, hour and a half later that they came. >> larry: did you think this would be a big deal? >> no. >> larry: no? >> not to the extent. >> larry: we've had steven's account of what happened. barely two days after the incident, taiwan-based next media animation realized -- released its dramatization of what occurred.
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how they knew this, i don't know, but check this out and we'll have steven comment. [ speaking taiwanese ] >> larry: okay. steven if you can make light of that, tell me what you -- >> i think it's hysterical. that was one of the first things i saw when i came out. and they made me a couple feet taller. i appreciated it. it was hysterical. the music, the setup. the whole thing. it was so over the top. i got a kick out of it. >> larry: how did you like being embraced as a folk hero. i mean, many people liked you after this? >> it's surreal. it's very strange. it's still me. i still put my pants on one leg at a time. it's hard to understand. i see all of this and the steven slater that people hear about, i
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kind of remind myself has been a two dimensional media and internet created figure. it's kind of a character. it's not necessarily me. i'm thankful that i'm here today having a chance to sort of become a little more three dimensional and sort of -- >> larry: they are hearing you for the first time. >> it is. it's flattering. it's seductive. i have to not let it go to my head. >> larry: why did you wait so long to come to a place like this? >> going through my legal proceedings, i felt it was probably in my best interest to just focus on those. put my head down and focus on what i needed to do at the time. >> larry: your receiving medical attention now? >> part of my arrangement with the court is a counseling and therapy program which, yes, i am. >> larry: you had that before? >> like a lot of crew members after 9/11, i did reach out for some assistance. that was a very difficult time to be a pilot or flight attendant in america.
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also after the twa flight 800 disaster in which i did lose some friends, i had also had been scheduled to work the return trip from europe of that aircraft. >> larry: you were supposed to be on that twa plane. >> on the return. the aircraft was to fly to paris, continue on to rome and my crew would work that back to new york. that was a difficult time. that came a little close. i felt appropriate. >> larry: where were you on 9/11. >> i was in manhattan. >> larry: when was your next trip? >> september 17th. i went to madrid. >> larry: six days later. was that a nervous flight? >> it was horrific. we were absolutely terrified. i will say, though, that once i got to madrid it was the first time that i could take a deep breath and relax. i had been on such edge in new york city, of course, but i knew that finally being overseas that we were probably safe at the time. >> larry: did you think on 9/11 of quitting? >> i did. i did. yeah, but you know, that would have let them win, and that wasn't my style.
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>> larry: steven's story became fodder for the late night comedians. take a look. ♪ you got to you got to get to you got to get to ♪ >> thanks to slater, we'll need to make changes to the airline safety card like in the event of flight attendant freak-out, assume crash position and extend arm to capture meltdown on iphone. seriously, no video of this? now we know it's true. jetblue really does have the best in-flight entertainment. sully sullenberger, the bar has been raised. >> unfortunately, nobody got the flip out on video. that's -- i don't know how that works. people are taping constantly. they did manage to get his arrest on tape. >> i'm done. >> you want one of those pillows and a blanky? get it yourself. >> terrorists are now afraid to
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fly jetblue. so that's -- >> what did you think watching all of that and seeing a headline like "planely nuts." >> it's so surreal. fortunately i do find the humor in all of this and i think a lot of people did. >> larry: you do? >> i do. i can step away from my angst and stress and see some humor in the whole thing. i think fortunately a lot of people do, too. >> larry: steven has an attorney naturally and as you might guess a very famous publicist. they are here next. to the morning bowl of cereal. and to lactaid® milk. easy to digest and with all the calcium [ technician ] are you busy? management just sent over these new technical manuals. they need you to translate them into portuguese.
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>> larry: we are back with steven slater. if i have to tell you who he is, you are on another planet. joining us are daniel horowitz, steven slater's attorney and howard bragman, steven slater's publicist, founder of the media and public relations firm 15 minutes. great name for a pr firm. all right, daniel. some people think he got off easy. did he? >> well if anybody has got $10,000 to pay his financial fine, i suggest to you that that's not an easy penalty. i think the plea bargain was what it was and that it enabled steven to move on with his life. >> larry: did he endanger lives? >> you know, he plead guilty to damaging property. and so that's really not a question that anybody reached. >> larry: the prosecutor of your case having thought he felt --
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that steven felt humiliated by what you perceived as degrading work conditions. is that true, by the way? >> it's frustrating. 20 years ago, i was carving a chateau brion over the north atlantic and at the end of the career checking cheetohs in the back of a regional. flight attendants today are performing all the cabin cleaning duties. on a weekly basis, i'd pull a dirty diaper out of the seat back pocket. the days of the pill box hat and the white gloves are long gone. >> larry: who is paying for the counseling. >> steven has to pay for that himself. >> larry: out of what income? >> well, steven has got some savings, but we're going to find a way to get through it. you know, as i said, it was an appropriate plea bargain and enabled steven to move on with his life. as he said he accepted responsibility. so it was fair. and we're going to get through it. >> and i want to put in perspective, $10,000 to some people isn't a lot of money. steven made $9700 last year. he had to take a lot of leave because his mother is ill in california. jetblue would not give him compassionate transfer to a base
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in los angeles, right? >> that is correct. >> so $10,000 is a pretty stiff fine. >> larry: why didn't they transfer you? >> couldn't tell you. >> larry: they wouldn't tell you? >> i followed protocol, put in my request and they felt operationally they couldn't make that allowance. >> larry: daniel, did you come close to having to go to trial? >> you know, it's something you always think about. obviously, we discussed what the options were with steven. i think there was risk for the district attorney in this case. i mean, i think the fact that we're on this show and we're still talking about this incident, people are paying attention to it, means that there's a lot of sympathy out there. and i think that's something that the district attorney gave some thought to. as i said earlier, i think that the deal was fair and i think it enabled steven to move on. you know, we went through the risk and reward analysis. and at the end of the day, some counseling, a plea to the minor crime at the end of the day and a financial penalty, you know, is a fair resolution.
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>> larry: you're going to be with us most of the next segment, so -- did you -- did steven take the offer right away? >> there was some negotiation, larry. the deal that we ended up with was not the deal they put on the table originally. >> larry: no? >> there was some work we had to do to get the result we achieved. >> larry: did you want to go to trial? >> not so much. >> larry: if you were a folk hero, you might have beat this. >> i may have. i may have. but i have priorities in my life. i have things i need to do. i need to be with my family. i need to be with my mother. i had to get on with my life. this afforded us an opportunity to do so. >> larry: how difficult was this for you, daniel? >> you know, a case that's got this kind of publicity and public attention really raises the stakes. you know, people's motivations change. the district attorney was being scrutinized. and to be fair to him, he's got two major airports, airline security in his district and jetblue is the largest employer in queens county. so i think there was a lot of that driving the disposition here.
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but, you know, we made a decision when we got into the case that we needed to lower the temperature, move this toward a press. there are times when you do that. this was not the kind of case -- >> larry: so you had him not do any media attention? >> we wanted to lower the attention to get the right disposition here. >> larry: thanks, daniel. howard will remain and we'll get him talking about image as a result of all of this. and why that matters now. don't go away. only one a day women's 50+ advantage has gingko for memory and concentration plus support for bone and breast health. a great addition to my routine. [ female announcer ] one a day women's. discover customersl are getting five percent cashback bonus at restaurants. it pays to switch, it pays to discover.
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do you sympathize with steven slater at all because he's dealing with people so hostile and rude towards him? >> sure, a little. of course. >> i do. and i think the passenger has some responsibility in that as well. >> no, i don't sympathize with him. that's part of the job. >> pick another job. it's a service oriented industry. i mean it comes with the territory. >> you have to have patience with who you are dealing with. and for him to blow up and do the things he did was very unprofessional. >> attendants are human, too. they deal with a lot of crap. >> you see more of this because passengers are getting tired. it's not as nice to fly anymore as it used to be. >> larry: nba season opening tonight. ron artest of the lakers will be here tomorrow night. joining us -- remain with us is howard bragman, steven slater's publicist. he's the founder of 15 minutes. why is this so resonating a story? >> really, it's -- there's three things that this touch.
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one is the society we live in. we're all working harder than ever before for the same or less money. the second thing is the general lack of politeness and civility. have you ever heard somebody running for governor tell a president to shove it before as we did yesterday? i mean, that just didn't used to happen. and the third thing is the airline experience that steven touched on that we all know is just horrible. i mean you look at that flight and you can look at his actions and he's taken responsibility and i'm proud of him but you have to look at the bigger picture. what caused all of this to happen? >> steven, why your here tonight since you didn't want to do any media. howard must have said okay. why now? why not just fade away? >> you know, i think there are wonderful opportunities to have a dialogue about some of these very issues. and i hope that in the end that some service can come out of this whole thing. maybe we can have a conversation about common courtesy in america. that might be an opportunity. >> we're going to have representatives follow you,
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flight attendants and the traveler as well. why do you think he should remain in the limelight? >> well, first of all, he's sort of run out of career options in the travel industry. and number two, you know, i met steven really quickly after this happened. he called me through some people referring me, and i really thought he could be a voice for a lot of these -- a lot of these nerves that his incident touched on. and the more i get to know him i like his intelligence and his charm and his wit. there's two steven slaters. until tonight there was the steven slater, the characature that jay leno and everyone is making fun of. and here's a real live flesh and bones person. that changes things. the surprise is he's a lot different than we thought. >> larry: do you think maybe he should have come out sooner? >> no, i think we did this at exactly the right time. dan and i were in absolute agreement. you don't say one thing until the legal resolution is behind
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us. and as soon as we get out to california and sit down with you, this is what we did. >> larry: is there a book deal or a tv something going to happen here? >> we have signed with a book agent. >> larry: the life story of -- >> we're with the morris office, as the say. we're with a great agent at wme entertainment. and he has a co-writer. and i think publisher is going to be interested. are we allowed to talk about the title? we have this fabulous title. >> we have a few ideas. >> larry: i think just saying it you can copyright it right here. >> "cabin pressure." it's great. he has a story to tell of 20 years in the travel business. i think it's coffee, tea or me for the new millennium. >> larry: don't you think there are a lot of people that have been passengers who say i've seen a lot of rude flight attendants, too. >> i think it works both ways. i think that's what we touched in society. i have an aunt who is a flight attendant. right after she read in the news i was representing him she said i've been flying x number of
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years and she said i never pulled the slide so i've heard about it at home, too. >> larry: so you do see another side? >> oh, there -- you absolutely see another side. and, you know, people have called steven a hero. and we've talked about that. and i know how you feel about that. >> captain sullenberger who landed an aircraft successfully on the hudson river, the flight attendants on that aircraft who successfully got 150 people out in 90 seconds, those are true heroes. >> larry: what -- how do you think of yourself then? >> i think of myself as someone who reached the end of their rope and might not have handled it the most appropriate way, but is making the best of it and moving forward. >> i couldn't be any happier to have a client who has taken responsibility, who has really touched this bigger chord in society. now the world is open to us. i think you'd be amazed at the volume of offers that are coming in and the people we're talking to. >> larry: to do television and -- >> to do television, for books, for endorsements.
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there's a lot of different offers that have come in. and we're really sorting through to get the right ones. >> larry: what your going to endorse? a chute? >> you'd be surprised. there's a lot of stuff out there. the playground equipment thing. i don't know if that's going to work. >> larry: thanks, howard. steven touched on it a minute ago. flying is not like it used to be. a flight attendant and a flyer join us next. and aleve was proven to work better on pain than tylenol 8 hour. so why am i still thinking about this? how are you? good, how are you? [ male announcer ] aleve. proven better on pain. since our beginning, we've been there for clients through good times and bad, when our clients' needs changed we changed to meet them. through the years, when some lost their way, we led the way with new ideas for the financial challenges we knew would lie ahead. this rock has never stood still. and there's one thing that will never change.
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>> larry: joining us from washington is vita shook,
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international vice president of the association of flight attendants, cwa, the world's largest labor union organized by flight attendants for flight attendants. she's been a flight attendant 19 years. and kate hanai. she's in san francisco. and she founded flyers back in 2006. a non-profit consumer organization representing airline passengers. we'll start with vida. what do you make of steven and his story? >> it was good to hear the story tonight, and i look at it from a couple different perspectives from representing flight attendants with the association of flight attendants. obviously, we're safety professionals first so this was a very extreme event. frankly, one that i've never heard of before. and then on a similar side, also being a union representative, what are the mitigating factors that led up to this. we heard about the three-day trip, you know, that that went wrong. but it sounds like there might have been some other issues at play in mr. slater's life.
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and as a union rep we'd want to know more about that. and how he could have possibly been helped on different moments prior to that. he mentioned he tried to get a hardship transfer. could that have happened? would that have been able to different outcome? >> larry: jetblue is nonunion, right? >> that's correct. >> larry: so you aren't in a union. are you in the union when you've worked for other airlines? >> i've work forward both union and nonunion carriers. >> larry: kate, as a founder of flyers rights, what do you make of this story and mr. slater? >> well, in terms of mr. slater, it sounds to me like he was under supported. and had an event that caused him to snap. and as he so eloquently put it in the early part of the show, as a consumer advocate, i have to say from my perspective, we have a hot line that people call every day and many times they are stuck inside hot, sweaty planes and they are calling our hot line to say what are my options.
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and i have had at least two dozen calls in the last four years from people who wanted to pop the emergency exit to get out of what we call a stranding event where they've been stuck for between four and ten hours on the tarmac. and we emphatically tell them no. it's not safe to do so. and if you are having a medical event, please call an ambulance. so i think we don't want to have this send the wrong message to people that it's okay to pop the emergency exit because it's not. >> larry: are you feeling, kate, compassion for steven? >> totally. from the minute i heard the story, i felt something had to have been gravely wrong. we get calls from both flight attendants and pilots on our deep throat hot line who express a variety of issues with the airlines where they feel undersupported and overworked and underpaid and their pensions are gone and it's pretty much a thankless task. being a flight attendant these days.
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and the passengers are notably more hostile because their experience is so stressful from the time they go to purchase the ticket and all of the ancillary unbundled fees and then they get to the airport and have to deal with security and the body scanners and then they get to the gate. if they are lucky enough not to be bumped, they may get on the plane and then have to deal with white knuckle flying frequently. a lot of that gets taken out on the flight attendants. so i have a lot of compassion for him. >> larry: vida, what's the number one flight attendant complaint? >> well, how do you put that into one particular issue? probably long days, short nights, full planes. i mean, there's several different issues that we face. >> larry: all of them combine into steven slater. we'll be back right after this. sure, decaf or regular? - regular. - cake or pie? - pie. - apple or cherry? cherry. oil or cream?
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right now at jfk, it's a very bad situation, it's been four hours. >> yeah, well, we've had some people vomiting and passing out. there's infants on the plane and they've threatened us with security situations if anyone tries to get off the plane. >> it's just unbearable and it should be reported and it should be on the news, and there should be a -- some sort of rights for the passengers who are on these flights. >> larry: we'll be back with steven slater in a moment. let's check in with anderson cooper, he'll host "ac 360" at the top of the hour. what's our lead?
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advocating revolution, saying any means necessary to change the government, even violence? candidate pastor stephen broden said all options are on the table. he lost an endorsement because of it and now he claims he was taken out of context. tonight we checked the context. we're keeping them honest. in florida, a trial in a brutal ninja style home invasion. you may remember this group of masked men who allegedly broke into the home of the family who were murdered execution style, the trial got underway and there are cameras in the courtroom. tonight's "crime & punishment" and the low down, dirtiest political ads at the top of the hour. >> it will be refreshing when this is over, won't it, anderson? "ac 360," 10:00 eastern, 7:00 pacific. are you a little surprised that vita shook, vice president of the union, jetblue had no union,
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and kate, who represents passengers, both of whom seem to have sympathy and support for you? >> truthfully, not in the least, what people don't always see is the flight attendants and passengers are on the same side. unfortunately we're both put in that airplane to deal with very trying circumstances. flight attendants want our passengers to have a safe, comfortable, enjoyable trip. that's who we're hired to be and who we are at heart. i love the work that kate and her organization does. sometimes she's a thorn in the side of airline management but so are the flight attendants. we have to champion each other. >> larry: does he have a good point? >> he does, as does kate, these planes and airports, everything's packed more than ever, and sometimes there is going to be some kind of a release. it shouldn't be releasing the slide, obviously, we don't condone that at all, of course, but, you know, we have to be
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kinder to one another. and the passengers and flight attendants are in this together. we're in this pressurized tube at tens of thousands of feet in the air, so we all have to work together. when i'm working as a flight attendant, i try to view the airplane as an oasis after everybody's waited in all those lines that kate was talking about and, you know, before you could have an airline business model that would make money with the planes two-thirds full. now it's all about squeezing everything, squeezing the passengers, squeezing the employees, all too frequently putting the seats closer together and all these things can create anxiety and tension. and frequently with passengers, as well. >> larry: when we come back, i'll ask kate, what's the biggest passenger complaint. we'll be back right after this. [ commentator ] lindsey vonn! she stays tough!
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what's your opinion about the jetblue flight attendant who jumped down the emergency slide with two beers in his hand? >> i guess he was looking for the third one. i don't know. >> i understand why he did it, you know, i guess he was really thirsty. >> i think he probably should have found a different occupation if it bothered him that much. >> he probably had enough. >> i thought it was a funny situation. that's pretty much it. >> i think maybe he just had an issue that he was just trying to deal with something. >> reporter: what do you think of the attention he's been getting? >> i think it's dumb. it makes more people do more idiotic things like that.
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>> larry: by the way, steven's father was a captain for american airlines and his mother was a senior flight attendant for american airlines. kate, what's the biggest passenger complaint? >> the biggest passenger complaint are flight delays, long flight delays, coupled with a lack of customer service to help folks get rebooked on another carrier or help them in any way deal with these very frequent and long flight delays. >> larry: do you get a lot of complaints about flight attendants? >> we do get some. it's a fairly unusual thing for somebody to be so off the mark that they call our hotline to complain about them, but we have had a number of them and they've been pretty egregious complaints. it seems there are a few flight attendants out there who are ready to snap and who maybe need a vacation. listening to steven slater,
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i would say it is very likely third undersupported by their airline and that nobody seems to notice and that maybe they need to have a break. >> larry: kate, do flight attendants, have they been talking a lot about steven? >> they have. >> larry: no, i mean -- that was for vida. >> they certainly were. at first it was -- it's like you could not write a better grand escape. you really couldn't. so -- really, everybody was like, you know, a lot of people thought that was secretly totally cheering him on, but also all the flight attendants were like, a bit horrifying, because that was really dangerous. deploying the slide. so what is happening that can create this and what, what are the bigger pictures. so is kate saying somebody needs a vacation, well, can somebody afford to take a vacation? is somebody working a second job?
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what are all the things bringing them here. so if we're talking about air travel and its, you know, a commodity, how is all this factoring in? the employees shouldn't be the commodity. >> larry: steven, what have you learned from all this? >> i've learned i need to take better care of myself. like we've just heard, everyone's trying to do so much more with so much less. you know, we're at a time in life now where we're trying to raise our children and take care of our parents and manage these careers on less, and sometimes we forget about taking care of our own needs and i think i would probably slow down and take better care of myself as well. >> larry: if you had to do it all over again you would not? >> no, i wouldn't do what i did. i would have made an exit, i would have handed in my two weeks and moved on. i loved flying, i had a wonderful 20-year career. it was an honor to carry our troops as they served our country, to, you know, bring people to weddings


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