Folk-hero following for steward in flight row

A flight attendant who has achieved folk-hero status for his "meltdown" over a fight with an agitated traveller has appeared in court charged with criminal mischief, reckless endangerment and trespassing.

Steven Slater has won thousands of online supporters for his "take-this-job-and-shove-it" moment on Monday which prompted him to curse over the intercom before grabbing some beer from the JetBlue plane's galley and making a grand exit down the emergency slide at New York's JFK International Airport.

Slater wore a slight smile as he was led into a state court in the New York borough of Queens on Tuesday. The charges carry a maximum penalty of seven years in prison. He was released on bail.

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His attorney Howard Turman said his client had been drawn into a fight between two female passengers over space in the overhead lockers as the Pittsburgh to New York flight was awaiting take-off. Somehow, Slater was hit in the head, Turman said.

By early Tuesday afternoon, more than 20,000 people had declared themselves supporters of Slater on Facebook and at least one fan set up a legal fund on his behalf.