JetBlue Exit: Steven Slater in His Own Words

JetBlue flight attendant said he had been drinking the day he quit.

Oct. 27, 2010 — -- Steven Slater, the JetBlue flight attendant famous for quitting his job by sliding down the emergency exit of a plane, said that he had been drinking on the day of the incident but was not too intoxicated to perform his duties or keep passengers safe.

"Truthfully, I will admit that," Slater told "Good Morning America" in an interview aired today. "It was one of those days that drove me to drink, and I admit that I did have a little sip. ... I was not intoxicated at the time of the incident."

Slater garnered international fame in August when, after an altercation with a passenger over some luggage on a plane at New York's JFK airport, he made an expletive-laden announcement over the plane's intercom before grabbing some beer from the galley, popping the emergency exit and sliding down the inflatable slide.

Slater told "GMA" that it was a combination of years of frustration with his job, personal pressures, one particularly bad day of flying and some drinking that pushed him over the edge after 20 years as a flight attendant.

Slater said that at the beginning of the flight that day from Pittsburgh, a woman accidentally hit him in the head with a bag, causing a bloody cut. It wasn't until the end of the flight, however, that everything came to a head. Slater said he got into a confrontation with the woman over her bag and, after a prolonged argument, snapped.

"On the way out of the aircraft, at the front door going into the jetway, [she] became very enraged that I couldn't provide her bag at that moment," he said. "That's when I started getting the verbal abuse and then, unfortunately, that's when I returned some of it.

"I was at the end of my rope. I'd had it. ... I call it kind of a perfect storm of bad manners on a number of people's part, including my own," he said. "I was angry. I was in a little bit of a state of rage."

Slater said he made the foul-mouthed announcement over the PA system simply because the microphone was already in his hand.

Slater said at that point he was "semi-thinking and semi-not-thinking," but it was visions of where he'd rather be that made immediate escape seem like an option.

"I saw this, you know, delicious ray of golden sunlight coming through that porthole. And I knew that the beach was just over there and my car was in the parking lot. I think at the end of the day, I wanted to know that I wasn't coming back," he said. "So I took a good look, and I said, 'You know what? That looks a lot better than this.' And anyway I went. The rest is history."

Slater Says He Did Not Present Danger to Passengers

While Slater, a recovering alcoholic, admitted to having had something to drink earlier that day, he categorically denied that he was impaired to the extent that he could not ensure passenger safety. He added, with a laugh, that his escape through the emergency exit proved he was capable of operating it in an emergency.

But, Slater said, if he hadn't had something to drink, he may not have quit in "such a spectacular fashion."

Though Slater was arrested after the incident and faced charges, including criminal mischief, he was also quickly becoming a worldwide celebrity and something of a folk hero to overworked, stressed-out Americans.

For weeks after the incident, America talked about his beer-grabbing slide exit, and a Facebook fan page gained more than 200,000 followers.

"It was absolutely a shock to me," he said of his sudden popularity. "I think because it's so resonant with so many people. I think people saw me as really a very typical worker in today's economy. We're trying to do more with less. We're caring for aging parents. We're trying to raise our children. ..."

Slater is caring for his mother, who has stage-four lung cancer.

It's a reality that seemed far from what he said was his vision of the past, filtered through "rose-colored glasses."

"When I started, I was serving chateaubriand over the North Atlantic. And at the end of my career, I was chucking Cheetos in the back of a regional jet," he said. "I loved what my career had been and not so much what it had become."

Part of the hassles that drove him to the brink, he said, were new regulations imposed by the airlines.

"I think there's a tremendous culpability in the airline industry as a a whole," he said. "At the end of the day, I am accepting responsibility, but I believe that there were many contributing factors that came together to create this. And many are within the airline's control."

Slater: Airline Industry's 'Tremendous Culpability'

Slater cited baggage fees by the airlines that in effect encourage people to try to bring more carry-on luggage, as well as "abuse" suffered by flight attendants daily.

In the end, Slated accepted a plea deal to avoid jail time, but still must pay a $10,000 fine and take a year of counseling and substance abuse treatment. Authorities were never able to find the woman Slater claims to have fought with. Slater said he believes that she did not come forward because she would be subject to fines.

JetBlue had to take the plane out of service to replace the slide. Slater's $10,000 payment restitution will partially pay for that replacement, which will cost the airline about $25,000.

He also apologized to those on the plane for his reaction that "spilled over" from his argument with the woman.

"To those people that do feel that they were mistreated, I'm sorry that that hurt their feelings," he said.

Looking back on it all, he said that he knew his relationship with the airline had to end, but wouldn't recommend anyone else quit their jobs quite so dramatically.

"From the moment I left, [I] thought, 'OK, maybe that wasn't the smoothest move,'" he said. "Don't try this at home, kids. This is probably not going to serve you that well in the long run."

ABC News' Scott Mayerowitz contributed to this report.

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