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Air steward Steve Slater becomes online hero after checking out on emergency slide

"F*** you. I've been in the business 28 years. I've had it. That's it"

By David Usborne

Jetblue may not be the “world's favourite airline”, but its recently departed employee, Steven Slater, has surely just become the world's favourite air steward.

Mr Slater was entirely anonymous until a passenger hit him in the head with his overhead baggage aboard a flight taxiing at New York's John F Kennedy Airport on Monday.

But when the passenger refused to apologise, Mr Slater struck a blow for put-upon flight attendants aboard budget airlines everywhere.

He announced his retirement over the intercom and promptly exited the aeroplane via its emergency slide, snaffling a couple of beers on his way out.

Mr Slater, who was freed on £2,500 bail yesterday on charges of criminal mischief, reckless endangerment and trespassing, found himself in the unlikely position of being an instant folk hero. The incident vaulted its 38-year-old protagonist into the pantheon of aviation superstars.

And if the drinks-cart veteran was rueing his astonishing adieu as he sat in a Queens courtroom yesterday, it must have been some consolation that hordes were crowding Facebook and Twitter pages to praise the manner of his departure from the aircraft — and presumably his career — and printing T-shirts bearing the slogan “Free Steven Slater”.

According to witnesses, Mr Slater used the intercom to tell the man exactly what he thought of him. “To the passenger who called me a motherf***er, f*** you,” he stormed. “I've been in the business 28 years. I've had it. That's it.”

Then he pulled a lever to activate the emergency evacuation chute and slid down. History does not record whether he removed his shoes.

But after all, who hasn't fantasised about “telling your boss to take this job and shove it”, mused Phil Catelinet, from Brooklyn, a passenger who witnessed the incident.

He added: “It's pretty much the craziest thing I have ever seen on a plane”.

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