LOS ANGELES - Attacks on airline staff have reached an all-time high. According to the FAA, almost 6,000 reports of unruly passengers in USA flights, during 2021. Four thousand of those incidents were mask-related, some of them quite violent.
The recent surge in violence against airline staff prompted the return of self-defense training being offered to flight crews. The classes were first offered after the Sept. 11 tragedy.
Taught by air marshals, it focuses on how to deal with attacks on planes, which now seem to include more drunk and or belligerent passengers, often refusing to wear masks.
"Sadly, we’ve become the mask police," says one flight attendant we followed through the 4-hour training.
"It’s not optional," she adds. "It’s the rule we have to ask people to abide by."
"We’ve always had the occasional drunk person, but since the pandemic began, more people are drinking way too much before they get on the plane," says another participant, who adds that "the mask is definitely the top issue."
The class begins with a short lecture about mindset, how to not be a victim, and be ready, even before a situation begins. They move on to a mat, where they learn to evade hits and stop attacks, even working on punching bags.
Afterwards, they are put through scenarios inside a replica plane. By the time they are done, the attendants we followed were more than ready to try a four-punch combination or knee an assailant who attacks them.
It’s not a technique to use when someone simply refuses to wear a mask, they explain, but on the more often seen case where passengers physically attack flight staff.
It’s hard to believe it’s come to this, they say, but they walk out feeling empowered. The attitude alone may stop a passenger from crossing the line.
Keep in mind, the training is also meant to stop a possible terrorist threat.
It’s free, and offered to flight staff on weekends all over the country, including Los Angeles. Those interested in the training program can click here for more information.
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