TSA Will Restart Voluntary Defense Courses For Flight Crew

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has confirmed it will restart its defense classes for flight crew in July. The classes are voluntary and were suspended last year due to COVID-19. The decision comes just days after new data suggests violent incidents are on the rise.

TSA Will Restart Voluntary Defense Courses For Flight Crew
TSA will resume self-defense classes for cabin crew in July. Photo: Southwest Airlines

Over the past year, incidents involving violent or unruly passengers have been on the increase. With many people refusing to follow health and safety guidelines, outbursts have been reported by multiple US airlines. According to research by the FAA, over 3,000 incidents have been reported in the US so far this year.

For the 3,000 reported incidents, just 487 have resulted in full investigations. This doesn’t sound like much, but compared to previous years it’s a huge jump. In 2020, there were just 183, and in 2019, there were just 146. It’s thought that refusing to wear a face mask is a major reason for the increase in incidents.

Seemingly in response to the FAA’s findings, TSA has confirmed that its voluntary defense classes will resume next month.

TSA Will Restart Voluntary Defense Courses For Flight Crew
Data suggests that asking passengers to wear face masks and follow health and safety rules has increased violent incidents. Photo: Delta Air Lines

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Restarting classes

The Crew Member Self-Defense (CMSD) classes were initially introduced after unions lobbied for a self-defense program following the terror attacks of 9/11. However, due to social distancing and health and safety rules created during the pandemic, training was suspended last year.

The CMSD classes help teach cabin crew and other airline employees how to defend themselves using simple moves targeting the eyes, ears, and groin. Crew will practice moves on a dummy in order to better protect themselves in real-life situations. The four-hour session also helps crew identify potential threats before they happen and teaches them how to diffuse situations before they become violent.

Is it enough to protect crew?

Although many think the training courses are a good start, they are voluntary and reportedly only a small percentage of crew actually attend the courses. Some think the courses should be mandatory. In response to the increase in violent attacks on airline employees, the FAA is increasing its reporting and tracking on incidents to help identify the problem and take further steps to keep crew members safe.

TSA Will Restart Voluntary Defense Courses For Flight Crew
Voluntary training for pilots and cabin crew was introduced in the US after 9/11. Photo: Getty Images

In addition, the FAA announced a “zero-tolerance policy” against violent passengers in January. As a result, it started publishing fines receives by passengers to help dissuade others from similar behavior. Fines are now capped at $37,000, up from $25,000, per violation. Multiple violations in one incident can result in larger fines. The FAA is also trying to prosecute more passengers. Its website points out that “Interfering with the duties of a crewmember violates federal law.”  

However, some unions still think more needs to be done and argue for a more coordinated approach. Currently, the FAA records incidents while the TSA offers the training program, and individual airlines can choose whether or not to ban passengers from flying in the future. The no-fly list is a strong deterrent for many people, and some think it should be used more frequently.

Do you think the FAA and TSA should be doing more to protect airline employees? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section.