Flight crew members to participate in self-defense training amid the rise of violence on airplanes

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Posted at 5:57 AM, Sep 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-20 06:55:27-04

DETROIT, MI (WXYZ) — Air travel is up nationwide, but tensions in the sky are just as high.

From verbal assaults to fist flying and passengers groping flight attendants—keeping the peace in the air is a real challenge.

But now, the men and women entrusted with ensuring our safety at 35-thousand feet, are getting new tools on how to battle back against rowdy passengers.

"I've been a flight attendant for 23 years. Things have definitely changed," flight attendant Redmond Lacy said.

But in a nondescript building near Metro Airport, a private training by TSA Air Marshals is teaching Redmond Lacy and 11 other flight attendants how and when to hit back.

"Our main objectives are to protect ourselves and our other guests on the aircraft," Lacy said. "And especially the aircraft."

They’re teaching members of the flight crew specialized tactics to confront growing unrest in the air.

"So they're getting the fundamental basic train of self-defense. That's the blocking, kicking, and punching," acting special agent Dirshawn King said.

"If somebody becomes a physical aggressor, these techniques then will allow them an opportunity to defend themselves and create time and space," the self-defense instructor said.

The four-hour free training sessions are offered at 24 locations nationwide.

The classes started back in 2004 but were put on a pandemic pause. Now the TSA is bringing them back with renewed urgency.

So far this year, we’re seeing a surge in unruly passengers.

More than 4200 reports of unruly passengers and more than 3100 mask-related incidents were reported. Reflections in the air of tensions on the ground.

"So people are upset about a whole lot of things going on and tensions are really high," Lacy said.

And it's all fueled by mask requirements, covid fatigue, and alcohol.

"As Federal Air marshals, flight attendants, we have to deal with that and we have to deal with it professionally," King said.

Flight attendant Dorothy Miller says she's more prepared to take charge of a volatile encounter thanks to this training.

"I think I would be prepared if I ever encountered the situation," she said.

Even so, the flight attendants here say they hope they’ll never use these skills.

The FAA is strengthening the defense of flight crews in the air and strengthening penalties and enforcement on the ground.

Ignoring a member of the flight crew is punishable by a fine of up to $10,000.

Assault on a member of the flight crew or a fellow passenger can get you a $30,000 fine.