By A. Pawlowski, CNN
(CNN) — Steven Slater may not be a flight attendant anymore, but he’s still a fixture on planes — no longer serving passengers but now observing them.
As he shuttles back and forth between his residences in New York and Los Angeles, Slater has collected 168,000 airline miles since August, when he burst into the public spotlight after dramatically quitting his job at JetBlue.
You’ll recall that Slater had just finished a flight when he told off a passenger over the plane’s public address system, grabbed a few beers from the beverage cart, opened the emergency evacuation slide and slid down at John F. Kennedy International Airport.
Many people saw Slater as a hero for confronting what he said was a rude passenger trying to wedge an oversized bag into an overhead bin and for his take-this-job-and-shove-it sentiment, but the incident also got him in trouble with the law.
These days, Slater is living off his 401(k) and some savings while “working on a few things,” he said. Much of his time since the outburst has been taken up by dealing with personal affairs, like the recent death of his mother and handling her estate in California.
Slater is also writing a memoir that he plans to call “The Diary of a Mad Flight Attendant.”
He’s still recognized, especially on planes.
“It’s a lot of high-fives,” Slater said.
I’m very, very widely embraced by airlines personnel, but it’s also amazing to me how many passengers, especially the frequent fliers, will come up to me on a flight and thank me for calling attention to the lack of civility of the airplane because everyone is tired of it.”
Slater recently spoke with CNN.com about the lessons he learned during his 20-year career in the air and in the past few months while sitting in the passenger seat rather than the jump seat.
1. Carry-ons are still a nightmare
“A lot of the headaches that the passengers and crews deal with are nightmare situations that the airlines have created,” Slater said.
“The most glaring example of that to me is that we charge passengers to check their luggage so of course common sense would say you try to bring on whatever you can, myself included.”
“Most of the temper tantrums I see revolve around baggage. You’ve worked so hard to get to the airplane, you get on the airplane and all you have is your one little piece of luggage and there just isn’t anywhere to put it.”
“Everything is so packed full because we’ve required everybody to bring everything on board or pay some of these, in some cases, really exorbitant fees.”
“If you’ve got a family of four, and you’re looking at paying $30 or $35 in baggage fees [per person], that’s as much as a whole ticket sometimes. Sometimes the ancillary fees are going to be more than the actual ticket price, and that’s kind of galling.”
2. Security process needs to be improved
“It seems you see a lot of the [temper] flare-ups at security. People are faced, to my mind, some kind of really ridiculous requirements,” Slater said.
“When you see children going through these full-body scanners — if I’m a parent and I’m sending my 5-year old through that, that’s offensive to me. That bothers me. It bothers me to see any child go through that.”
“I see a lot of really stressed and tired people. I think that by the time you get on the airplane, you’ve already run the gamut, you’ve been through so much with getting to the airport, going through security, going through some of these just ludicrous procedures, going through the nude-o-scopes and queuing up and waiting in line for half an hour.”
“It just seems like the airport experience is such an ordeal that by the time you get on the airplane, usually you’re exhausted and you’re thankful to just be on the darn airplane.”
3. Airline industry is in a sad state of affairs
“I came from TWA, and we were in 747s going to Europe carving Chateaubriand in the aisles and pouring Dom Perignon,” Slater said.
“We’re now throwing Cheetos in the back of commuter planes. It’s really tragic.”
“The airlines are still trying to wring concessions from a work force that has absolutely nothing more to give. We have reduced rest, we have reduced salaries.”
“When I started flying, we might go from New York to Los Angeles, have a reasonable layover and come back. Now it’s very typical to go from New York to Los Angeles and back in a day and do that three or four days in a row.”
“It’s very important to say how incredibly proud I am of my fellow flight attendants and pilots and airline workers who have stayed true to their passion.”
4. Flight attendants have their limits
“I think it’s OK to set boundaries. Everyone wants to be a professional, you want to be courteous, you want to be empathetic and believe me, flight attendants get it,” Slater said.
“We’re hired to be compassionate people, we’re there because we do care, we understand that people are going to weddings and funerals and they’re flying for often very not pleasant experiences and there is that compassion. But it’s not OK to be abused.”
5. It’s possible to make the experience less stressful
“I see everybody trying to do the best they can with a really bad situation,” Slater said.
“I try to stay as flexible as possible. I give myself a lot of time. I try to get there early, I try to fly the day before the event — if I have a meeting on a Friday, I make sure I fly on a Thursday.”
“I never rely on the airline to provide what they say they’re going to.