CHELSEA, MASS. (WHDH) - With attacks on flight attendants skyrocketing, 7NEWS got an inside look at the training now being offered to prepare for the possibility of violent passengers.
Reports of flight attendants being punched or having to subdue out-of-control passengers with duct tape and seat belt extenders have been surfacing all across the country.
At a homeland security office in Chelsea, U.S. Air Marshals have been training flight crew members in self-defense.
Flight crews say they have to be ready because reports of problems on planes are only increasing.
According to the Federal Aviation Administration, there have been more than 4,700 unruly passengers just this year alone. That number is more than double what was reported in 2020.
Of the recent confrontations, 73 percent involve passengers who refuse to wear masks.
Flight attendant Kristen Beard said she wants to learn what to do if a passenger on her airplane flies into a rage.
“I’m definitely more aware things can escalate to violence quickly,” she said. “There’s been instances of people storming the flight deck or trying to open doors, passengers fighting passengers, passengers fighting flight attendants.”
The training starts in a classroom but quickly moves into the gym.
Then the flight attendants take the techniques they learned into a flight simulator. Inside these special training areas, flight crews must contend with the exact conditions they will be dealing with in the air — including crowded seats, overhead compartments and thin aisles
One after another, the trainees practice what to do if they are confronted with violence.
“I can only imagine going onto an aircraft – you’re stuck in a tube with 200 something passengers and some of them aren’t very happy,” said TSA spokesperson Dan Velez. “This type of class helps flight attendants become a little more at ease knowing they can confidently deescalate a situation and defend themselves and passengers if they need to.”
Flight attendants say they are just doing what they must to stay safe in the sky.
“I don’t think our intention is ever, ‘I’m gonna fight people on the plane,” said flight attendant Brittany Decker. “You never want anything to happen. Our first priority is to keep everyone safe, make sure the planes get on the ground safely and take off safely.”
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