CHICAGO — We’ve all seen them–cellphone videos of people misbehaving on flights and being removed.
Delta Airlines suggested that airlines share their no fly lists of disruptive passengers this week. It’s an effort to protect airline employees across the industry. This comes as airline crews have to enforce the pandemic-era restrictions, and take on the burden of those who are unable to comply.
In January, due to the disturbing increase in violent behavior on flights, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) enacted a zero-tolerance policy for anyone who “assaults, threatens, intimidates or interferes with airline crew members.”
“Post-pandemic travel is not the same,” said Ron Phifer, supervisory air marshal in charge of the Chicago field office for the Federal Air Marshal Service.
Phifer stated that FAA regulations such as the wearing of a mask while flying must be enforced by federal law.
“We treat mask requirements very similar to those other safety requirements on board the aircraft, and that’s what aircrews are trained to do,” said Phifer.
The TSA has resumed self defense training for crew members after a brief pandemic pause. Taught by federal air marshals, it’s designed to teach them effective defensive measures for use onboard an aircraft or even in public spaces.
“They learn to defend themselves with hand strikes with using their feet, their legs. So, protecting their vital parts of their body,” said Phifer.
Lisa Hodo is a flight attendant who has worked for more than 30 year and decided to take this class.
“Flight attendants have been the subject of attacks,” she said. “I mainly, I came so that I could protect myself as well as my passengers on the plane.”
Hodo says enforcing federal mask mandates has been a real challenge.
“Even though they have signed the agreement, that they’re going to keep wearing the masks, they don’t necessarily want to do it,” said Hodo.
This year, nearly 4500 incidents related to mask-related incidents have been reported by the FAA.
Flight attendant and instructor Barbara Aievoly, another first-time self-defense trainee, says it’s important now more than ever to be prepared for a confrontation.
“No matter what’s going on, everyone knows it’s going to be filmed. And I don’t want to be famous for, you know, having to handle an unruly passenger,” said Aievoly. “I’d like to de-escalate at first. But I also want to know the proper way to get out of a situation that I might not be able to handle.”
Penalties for unruly behavior have been upped with a fine of up to $37,000 or criminal charges. The FAA’s already initiated 169 enforcement cases this year and collected more than $1 million in fines.
Hodo believes that those deterrents can work.
“You just don’t want to escalate it. Hodo said that’s the main point. “You don’t really want to have to move to the things that we’re being taught in here.”