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JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater flips out: Passenger account

Phil Catelinet
JetBlue Passenger/Eyewitness
Tuesday, August 10, 2010; 2:00 PM

A JetBlue flight attendant, Steven Slater got into an argument with a passenger on a jetliner arriving at John F. Kennedy International Airport on Monday, cursed the passenger, grabbed a beer from the galley and then deployed an emergency exit slide and fled the plane, authorities said.

Phil Catelenit, a passenger on board that flight, was online Tuesday, Aug. 10, at 2 p.m. ET to relate his eyewitness account of the incident.

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Phil Catelinet: Hi, this is Phil Catelinet here to discuss the incident on Monday's JetBlue flight. I was on the plane and we were at the gate getting off the plane when I heard the flight attendant swear at a passenger on the intercom. I heard about the emergency slide from other passengers and the flight attendants as I got off the plane. Then I saw the flight attendant at the airport shuttle train and heard him talking about how he'd had a bad day, quit his job, and used the emergency slide to get off the plane.

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New York, N.Y.: Where was the plane when either the passenger got up, or when the flight attendant hit the slide -- was it way out on the taxiways, or was it right by the gate? Was the arrival delayed at all after the slide was used?

Phil Catelinet: We stopped a few feet from the gate and a few passengers got up to get their bags. This flight attendant made an announcement for everyone to remain seated and close the overhead bins. Then we pulled up to the gate and everyone got up to get their bags. I still didn't know anything had happened until I heard the attendant's announcement over the intercom.

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Las Cruces, N.M.: Were you aware of the passenger -- such as rudeness during the flight -- prior to the incident with the flight attendant?

Phil Catelinet: No, I didn't know anything had happened. I saw the flight attendant at the beginning of the flight and he had a scratch or a cut on his forehead, but it was tiny and I thought it might be a birthmark.

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Annandale, Va.: The reports I read are conflicting about whether the incident started in Pittsburgh and resumed in New York or whether it all transpired in New York.

Did you see the whole thing? What exactly happened?

Phil Catelinet: I was sitting in row 15 and he was working at the front of the plane. So I didn't see anything happen with anyone else before we left Pittsburgh. I was just trying to get settled in my seat and out of the aisle.

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Bethesda, Md.: So, you were getting off the plane when this all happened? Was the front door open?

Phil Catelinet: The front door was open and people were getting off the plane via the jetway. After his outburst on the intercom, I was getting off the plane and it looked like the door opposite the jetway was open. But I didn't turn my head to look because I just wanted to get off the plane before anything else happened. I didn't know what was going on at that point.

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Did you see what brought it on?: The story is that a passenger in question hit the flight attendant with a piece of luggage -- did this happen?

Phil Catelinet: I've heard this but I didn't see it. On the shuttle train to the parking lot, the flight attendant was talking about the scratch on his head and said something like "this is just part of why I'm having the day I'm having." It sounded like he and another passenger had a problem with the passenger's luggage, but I didn't see it.

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Bronx, N.Y.: Mr. Catelinet, are you aware of any other incidents or difficulties on the flight before landing? I'm trying to figure out how this went from a seemingly-normal, isolated interaction with a bad passenger, to farce, in seconds.

Phil Catelinet: I didn't see or hear anything else on the flight before we left, while we were in the air, or on the ground. The flight attendant said something about a passenger getting on his nerves or making trouble for him before we left. I didn't hear exactly what he claimed happened with that passenger.

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Manassas, Va.: Had anything unusual gone on that flight before the great escape? Was the PA announcement as profanity as is being reported?

Phil Catelinet: The announcement was as profane as the news reports claim. That was the first indication something was weird. I've never heard anyone swear on an airplane PA system before. It would be like hearing the president swear during a speech. It just doesn't happen.

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D.C.: What was his choice of beer that he grabbed? Do you know?

Phil Catelinet: I didn't see him grab any beer. I read that part in the news much later. They didn't serve beer on the flight, just water, coffee and orange juice.

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Boston, Mass.: Early news said the following: passenger stood up before plane came to stop, opened overhead, passenger luggage dropped out hit steward who asked for an apology, passenger swore, steward swore back, got on intercom said he had had a great 28 years grabbed his luggage, two beers and opened up the door and activated the slide. Three suitcase down slide and then followed to his car and he drove home. News now has a different story. What gives?

Phil Catelinet: I don't know about a different story. I didn't see him pull the slide or throw his luggage out or grab the beers. By the time I got to the front of the plane he was gone and the other flight attendants were talking about someone having a really bad day. And he didn't drive off the tarmac. He got back into the terminal and walked to the airport shuttle train.

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Fairfax, Va.: What did he say over the loudspeaker?

Phil Catelinet: He said "To the passenger who called me a [expletive], [expletive] you. I've been doing this job for 28 years and I'm done. I quit." I'm paraphrasing but I remember the swear words clearly because it was so shocking to hear them on a airplane PA system.

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Reston, VA: Just wondering if anyone was laughing while the profanity was being heard. I think I would have busted a rib hearing this

Phil Catelinet: I turned to the passengers behind me, waiting to get off the plane. We couldn't believe we'd heard it and one of them said "did he really just say that?" I did think it was funny at first. I didn't know that it was only part of the story.

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Washington, D.C.: So... what really happened, and what do you think?

Phil Catelinet: I think that it's kind of a funny way to quit your job, but I don't think he's a hero. He's in a tough customer service job and dealing with difficult people is part of his job. We all have bad days but we're not supposed to take it out on the people around us. And as a flight attendant, he's responsible for the safety of the passengers. You don't want to see someone in that position lose their cool that way.

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New York, N.Y.: Have you been interviewed by the police? And how many TV/radio shows will you be on?

Phil Catelinet: I haven't talked to the police. And I think my media tour is over. It was fun but I'd like to get back to my regular life.

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Phil Catelinet: Thanks for your questions! It's been a completely unique experience being in the spotlight today. I'm looking forward to being a normal person again tomorrow.

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