Former JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater, center, arrives at Queens criminal court for a hearing on criminal mischief charges, Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2010, in New York. Slater, accused of cursing out a passenger and sliding down an emergency exit chute, is working on a plea deal. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
Fed up JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater, who pleaded guilty to felony attempted criminal mischief in Queens court last week, says given the opportunity to do things over, he likely wouldn't have "grabbed two beers and jumped."
"At the end of the day, would I have chosen to make the same decisions again? Probably not," Slater told Matt Lauer on the "Today" show, his first TV interview since his sentencing. "It was definitely time to go, and I probably shouldn't have allowed myself to get to a point where I got so frustrated."
Asked what made him end his 20-year career with an abrupt emergency chute exit from a plane at JFK, Slater rehashed his original story about a confrontation with a rude passenger on the ground at Pittsburgh and a head gash he claims he sustained as a result. That rude passenger has never been identified, however, and no other passengers on the manifest could recall the ordeal when authorities questioned them.
Slater blamed the lack of witness confirmation on media inflation of the event.
"It was not nearly as spectacular as it was made out to be," he said, explaining why no one else besides him could remember it.
Slater, a self-described recovering alcoholic, denied reports that he had been rude to passengers before anyone allegedly behaved rudely toward him and also said he wasn't drunk at the time of the incident, although he confessed he had imbibed the evening before.
"I will admit I was not in the best of shape, I was sleep deprived … probably not the best professional appearance," he admitted.
As part of his plea deal, Slater is required to enter a year-long mental health program, receive substance-abuse counseling and pay JetBlue $10,000 in restitution.
Asked about his life-stress issues – he's HIV positive, his father died of Lou Gehrig's disease and he cares for his ailing mother – Slater denied he was clinically depressed, but said he looked forward to the requisite treatment ahead of him.
"This gives me a vehicle to turn some things around," he said.
And while Slater has previously mentioned a desire to fly again, he said in today's interview that perhaps the time has past for him to sail the skies.
"I loved being a flight attendant, unfortunately today's industry is not where I need to be," Slater said. "I didn't do this for comic relief but I think it was a moment for people to pause, take a breath and say, 'You know what, I get this.'"