Slater said he was angry that a passenger cursed at him and ignored his instructions not to retrieve his luggage from the overhead compartment until the plane had fully stopped.

"He talked about how he'd been a flight attendant for 28 years and he was fed up with this passenger who had a bag problem," one passenger on board the flight wrote on his blog. "He said something like 'your bag's right here!' and mimed pulling the emergency slide."

The fed-up flight attendant has now turned into something of a working-class hero, with websites featuring musical tributes and a Facebook group raising money for his legal defense. Hong Kong-based Next Media has even made a 3-D reconstruction of the incident:

The gossip website Gawker called him a "hero" for "doing that which everyone who has traveled by airplane dreams." New York magazine predicted "folk hero" status.

"It's part of the frustration all over the country as employees take pay cuts and have to do double the workload as they take on the responsibility of their laidoff co-workers," wrote Joanna Molloy, a columnist for the New York Daily News.

Slater was released from jail on Tuesday after posting bail. He faces charges for criminal mischief, reckless endangerment and trespassing. JetBlue said it hasn't fired him - not yet, at least.