Unruly air passengers: Flight attendant warns ‘you just don’t know who you’re going to meet’

Prior to the onslaught of reported unruly passenger incidents, Flight Attendants Association member Jonathan Mammarelli never thought twice before starting his shift.

“But now you really have to be on your toes and have that situational awareness because you just don’t know who you’re going to run into,” Mammarelli told FOX Business.

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Mammarelli was one of many flight attendants who participated in the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) Crewman Self-Defense Training Program, which teaches active crewmembers how to handle physical altercations both in and out of the plane.

A passenger wears a face mask as she travels on a Delta Air Lines flight after taking off from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File/AP Newsroom)

His training has proven useful for flight crews who have faced approximately 6,870 unruly passenger incidents since the start of 2021, according to FAA data.

In January 2021, FAA Administrator Steve Dickson signed An order imposing tougher penalties – $37,000 fine per violation – on passengers who assault, threaten, intimidate or interfere with crew members after seeing “a disturbing increase in incidents where airline passengers disrupted flights” .

FAA and Justice Department officials have even developed “an effective method to refer the most serious cases of unruly passengers for possible criminal prosecution.”

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The sanctions helped stifle the wave of incidents, which have since fallen by around 50% from the peak in early 2021. Yet airlines continued to deal with growing numbers of unruly passengers.

“We’re more on our toes than ever and definitely a bit more stressed,” Mammarelli said.

The TSA self-defense class helped counter that stress, he said.

“It helped me and I’m sure it helped everyone to know exactly how to defuse the situation,” he said. “Heaven forbid, if something were to happen, we would know how to…keep everyone safe, our flight partners and passengers.”

Travelers walk through Salt Lake City International Airport, Tuesday, March 9, 2021, in Salt Lake City. U.S. airlines add jobs as industry employment extends a rebound from a low in October, when tens of thousands of airline workers were laid off (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer/AP Newsroom)

Throughout the course, Mammarelli and other flight attendants learned different techniques for countering an attack, including how to rotate the feet and move around in the tight spaces of a cabin. They also learned how to punch, kick and even properly grab a weapon, such as a knife, from a passenger’s hand should a certain situation arise, Mammarelli said.

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More importantly, they learned to be “situationally aware with what’s going on around you,” he said. If something should happen, you are taught to step back, understand how to block an attack, secure the passenger and make sure everyone is safe on the plane, Mammarelli said.

However, he stressed that you always want to be able to defuse the situation as best you can before it gets physical, “because when you’re 35,000 feet in the air a lot of things can go wrong.” .

Mammarelli says that usually means listening to what passengers are saying and not raising your voice at them.

“You have to be the calmest in this situation and maybe just allow them to express what they want to express,” he said.

Most of the time, they’re just frustrated with things like wearing a face mask or being late or late for a flight, according to Mammarelli.

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