A pair of Pittsburgh women aboard a JetBlue flight said flight attendant Steven Slater — hailed by some as folk hero — was rude to passengers and instigated the confrontation that resulted in his barreling down an emergency chute from the plane and, ultimately, his arrest.
Marjorie Briskin, 53, told The Wall Street Journal for a story Thursday that Slater blurted out an expletive during an otherwise normal conversation with a passenger over luggage.
Another woman, 25-year-old Lauren Dominijanni, told the Journal that Slater was immediately rude to her. She said he "rolled his eyes at me" when she asked for a wipe to clean up coffee someone spilled on her seat.
The paper quoted Briskin as saying that Slater's conversation about luggage with the as-yet unidentified passenger was normal but turned nasty after Slater said the expletive.
"I didn't think she was rude in the least," Briskin said, according to the paper. "It really blew my mind. It was so inappropriate."
Dominijanni said she had asked Slater for napkin to clean up the coffee and that he "rolled his eyes at me and said, 'What?' in a real rude manner."
She added that when she pointed to the spilled coffee, Slater responded, pointing to a gash on his head: "No! Maybe when we get in the air! I need to take care of myself first, honey!"
Neither woman immediately returned calls from The Associated Press on Thursday.
Slater's abrupt exit from the plane almost instantly turned him into an online hero, with many people saying they've dreamed of walking off the job in such a grand fashion. More than 100,000 people had joined a Facebook page supporting his actions.
Slater's ex-wife, Cynthia Susanne, came to his defense Thursday, calling him a consummate flight attendant who would always act in the most appropriate manner.
Speaking on ABC's "Good Morning America," Susanne said she did not believe some passengers' suggestions that Slater started the confrontation on Monday, when he exited the parked plane by the emergency chute at New York's Kennedy Airport.
She said Slater was extraordinarily tolerant and patient and added she had not yet spoken to him about the confrontation on the Pittsburgh-to-New York flight.
The couple have a son together.
Slater is out on bail after being arraigned on criminal mischief and reckless endangerment charges.