TSA resumes self-defense trainings to deter unruly passengers
It’s been a rough year for some Transportation Security Administration employees.
Air travel is picking back up to pre-pandemic levels, but the number of incidents with violent passengers has increased in tandem. The Federal Aviation Administration has initiated nearly 500 investigations into “unruly passenger” incidents so far this year, more than three times the total number in 2019.
The TSA called the incidents “troubling” in a Thursday statement, adding the agency reported similar incidents at checkpoints across the country. To help deter assaults, the agency is bringing back self-defense training for flight crews.
Preparing for the worst
The training, which was on pause due to COVID restrictions, is led by federal air marshals and is set to begin next month. The program teaches crew how to de-escalate and, if needed, defend against an attack in a commercial passenger or cargo aircraft.
“While it is our hope that flight crew members never have need for these tactics, it is critical to everyone’s safety that they be well-prepared to handle situations as they arise,” Darby LaJoye, Senior Official Performing the Duties of the TSA Administrator, said in a Thursday news release.
The voluntary four-hour training is free to flight crew members, and offered at 24 locations across the country.
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Unruly passengers on the rise
The training comes as aviation employees — including transportation security officers — face an uptick in violence among passengers.
Just this month, two separate assault incidents in Denver and Louisville, Kentucky, led to law enforcement involvement.
In Louisville, two transportation security officers were allegedly assaulted by a passenger who attempted to “breach the exit lane,” according to a TSA statement. The passenger faces state criminal charges for criminal trespass, fleeing and evading police, misdemeanor assault, and resisting arrest.
The Denver incident, which is under investigation, allegedly involved a passenger biting two security officers. The passenger, as well as the passenger involved in the Louisville incident, face a potential civil penalty of up to $13,910 for each TSA security requirement violation, according to the agency.
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The FAA has proposed $563,800 in fines against unruly passengers since Jan. 1. The behavior prompting the latest round of penalties includes passengers allegedly assaulting flight crews, refusing to wear face masks and drinking alcohol they brought on board.
“Passengers do not arrive at an airport or board a plane with the intent of becoming unruly or violent,” TSA Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Administrator Darby LaJoye said in Thursday statement. “However, what is an exciting return to travel for some may be a more difficult experience for others, which can lead to unexpected, and unacceptable, behaviors.”